Tate Modern Exhibition

Performing for the Camera

Romain Mader Ekaterina: Mariage à Loèche-les-Bains (Marriage in Leukerbad)

Serious performance art, portraiture, or simply posing for a photograph… what does it mean to perform for the camera?

Photography has been used to capture performances since its invention – from the stars of the Victorian stage to the art happenings of the 1960s, right up to today’s trend for selfies. 

This exhibition explores the relationship between the two forms, looking at how performance artists use photography and how photography is in itself a performance.

Masahisa Fukase's photograph, From Window 1974 showing a young woman carrying a suitcase photographed from above

Masahisa Fukase, From Window 1974

© Masahisa Fukase Archives. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.

Photograph Masahisa Fukase Bukubuku (bubbling) 1991 showing a man in a bath or swimming pool blowing bubbles

Masahisa Fukase Bukubuku (bubbling) 1991

© Masahisa Fukase Archives. Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

Photograph by Amalia Ulman Excellences & Perfections, showing a young woman photographing herself, wearing underwear, in a bathroom mirror

Amalia Ulman Excellences & Perfections

© Courtesy Arcadia Missa and The Artist​

Photograph showing a man appearing in the open mouth of a shark

Martin Parr Autoportrait: Benidorm, Spain 1997

Watch curator Simon Baker talk about key works in the exhibition:

Video placeholder

Simon Baker | TateShots

Performing for the Camera includes over 500 images, including vintage prints, large scale works, marketing posters and Instagrammed photos. It shows how photographs have captured performances by important artists including Yves Klein and Yayoi Kusama, and ground-breaking collaborations between photographers, performers and dancers. It looks at how artists including Francesca Woodman, Erwin Wurm and others have used photography as a stage on which to perform, and how figures from Cindy Sherman and Hannah Wilke to Marcel Duchamp and Samuel Fosso have used photography to explore identity.

Exhibition videos

Watch three interviews exploring themes within the exhibition.

Video placeholder

Adwoa Aboah model and founder of @GurlsTalk reflects on what it is to perform for the camera

Video placeholder

It’s better to pose myself and be the main character in my work. There is an irony and vulnerability – it is awkward to look at that.
Romain Mader

Video placeholder

Artist David Lamelas takes a minute (or few) to reflect on conceptual art and that time he became a rock star.

Tate Modern

The Eyal Ofer Galleries

London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit


18 February – 12 June 2016

Find out more