Tate Modern

Diaristic Photography and the Photobook

Natalie Bell Building Level 2 West

Ed van der Elsken 1925-1990, Love on the Left Bank, Andre Deutsch, London, 1956
Purchased with funds generously provided by the LUMA Foundation and with the assistance of Tate Members, Art Fund, Tate Americas Foundation, Tate Photography Acquisitions Committee, Tate Latin American Acquisitions Committee, Tate Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee, Tate Russia and Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee and Tate Middle East and North Africa Acquisitions Committee and partial gift from Martin Parr 2017

This display brings together photobooks and photographs by artists who offer an intimate view into their own lives

The artists in this display turn the camera’s gaze onto themselves, their families, their friends and relationships. As if keeping a diary, they use photography as a tool to preserve memories, and to reflect on and understand their realities.

These works are often uncensored and unromanticised. There are images of drugs, sex, nudity and violence. They often depict youth and subcultures. In 1980s New York, Nan Goldin photographed her adopted family of friends and lovers, some of whom were drug users, transgender people and sex workers. In the 1990s Vinca Petersen photographed her experiences driving around Europe organising illegal music events with her circle of friends. Goldin and Petersen don’t portray themselves as outsiders. Instead, their work conveys a strong sense of belonging and community.

Diaristic photography often resembles snapshots. The framing can appear erratic, and the images are sometimes grainy or blurred. These qualities heighten the sense of immediacy. The photobook is an ideal medium for diaristic photography. Its form mimics the traditional diary, while its small scale suits the intimate subject- matter. Paging through the sequence of images, we are introduced to a cast of characters or gain insight into a close relationship. The book format also allows artists to incorporate text and other materials, like keepsakes stored between the pages of a written diary.

Curated by Sarah Allen


Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
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