Jock Sturges
The Absence of Shame

08.09.2016 — 25.09.2016

Jock Sturges is one of the most controversial photographers of the last decades known for his series of naturist families primarily taken at communities in France, Northern California and Ireland.

Captured with the rare large format camera, his images often refer back to the old masters painting and the classical style photography of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

However, the photographer’s initial rise to fame was burdened by controversy. The young age of some of his models drew the attention of a conservative federal task force that raided his studio and seized his files and equipment, later on all his images and equipment were returned and no charges brought. Three years later his work was assailed again by an organized attack by extremist activists from American Christian communities who besieged bookshops aiming to seize and destroy his books. Once again his work was ultimately found to be innocent of all pornographic content or intent.

Indeed, his photographs are devoid of exploitive or negative characteristics. Sturges doesn’t treat the naked body as an abstract form, but engages with his models and aims to capture them when they are most at ease, giving his work a beautiful, unrestrained quality. Sturges is committed to long term friendships with the families he photographs. The photographer captures his models – girls and young women from nudist communities – in the surroundings that are organic to them. “Nudity means nothing to anybody here…People are naked…because they are naturists and spend their summers in a resort dedicated to the absence of shame.”

Having started in the 1970s, now he is photographing the third generation of his models. “I have many series that are 30 to 35 years long”. He is fascinated with the human body and how it develops from a fat-bellied baby to a delicate child and from there into adolescence and beyond into adulthood. Not just the biological process is an interest of Sturges, the development of the personality is of equal, if not greater, importance to him: “My ambition is that you look at the pictures and realize what complex, fascinating, interesting people every single one of my subjects is.”

Jock Sturges received a B.A. in Perceptual Psychology and Photography from Marlboro College in Vermont and an M.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute. After graduation he worked with Richard Benson printing from the negatives of Paul Strand, Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Gary Winogrand, etc.

Sturges has more than 10 monographs published and his work has been included in many museum collections around the world, well-known examples being The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Library in Paris and The Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibition represents around 40 photographs, offering a retrospective view on the work of Jock Sturgesfrom the 1970s to the recent times.

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