Notes from FotoFest 2010 Houston – Houston Center for Photography (HCP)

by heidistraubephotographer

“Why images of American groups made before 1950? My rule…I like these photographs. Posses, clubs, teams, graduations, parades, rallies, klans, assemblies, ceremonies, choruses, and mobs are all here. I respond to images that have intense strangeness. This is not a definitive collection of photographs. I like these because they´re fun, and they resonate with me. For me that is the pleasure of collecting.” – W.M. Hunt, 2009

From the exhibit “RE: groups – American Photographs Before 1950” from W.M. Hunt´s Collection Blind Pirate

The Houston Center for Photography (HCP) has three exhibits for FotoFest 2010…The one that really charmed me was W.M. Hunt’s collection of group photos from before 1950. You can read the description of this exhibit on the HCP website, but you really can’t get the full impact of it until you’re actually there, standing in front of the photographs. Groups of students, employees, families, legislative groups…they’re all here, and shown together, they remind us of a use of the camera that we often take for granted and a life event that is truly part of the American consciousness.

There’s something about seeing all of these photographs in one place that made me want to go find all of my group photos, either taken by me or from my childhood school yearbooks, birthday parties, and travels. The exhibit made me nostalgic for the days of effortlessly belonging to a group, not trying, even resisting that group portrait because it seemed cheesy. There’s something elegant and respectful about these images…an acknowledgment of the power of groups.

Be sure to see the  Ku Klux Klan group image. It’s simultaneously hilarious (they all have their hoods on, so you can’t see who’s in the picture! Why take a picture of people that you can’t see?) and frightening (not seeing who is underneath the hoods is the whole point of the Klan…anyone could be there, including your brother, next door neighbor, or 1st grade teacher).