Telling Tales: Contemporary Narrative Photography

September 28, 2016 to January 15, 2017

Explore the History of Photography as an Art Form

Telling Tales: Contemporary Narrative Photography is a survey of work by artists who record stories through pictures, whether real or imagined. Organized by the McNay’s Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art, René Paul Barilleaux, the exhibition includes approximately fifty photographs from the late 1970s to the present by 17 ground-breaking photographers. Telling Tales is the McNay Art Museum’s first large-scale exhibition of photography and is accompanied by an 88-page illustrated book. 


The exhibition presents work such as Nan Goldin’s landmark The Ballad of Sexual Dependency demonstrate some artists’ explorations of the politics of the day—in this case, the onset of the AIDS crisis—while other examples, including photographs by Tina Barney, Justine Kurland, and Paul Graham investigate class differences, marginalized communities, and social justice.


While some contemporary artists explore photographic imagery as it is filtered through and mediated by technology and the internet, others exploit photography’s ability to present a momentary, frozen narrative. Images are staged for the camera or highly manipulated through digital processes, yet they often resemble a casual snapshot or movie still. Primarily in color and often large-scale, the photographs reference everything from classical painting and avant-garde cinema, to science fiction illustration and Alfred Hitchcock. The exhibition includes examples of these various approaches to image-making.


Telling Tales: Contemporary Narrative Photography
features work by Tina Barney, Julie Blackmon, Gregory Crewdson, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Mitch Epstein, Nan Goldin, Paul Graham, Jessica Todd Harper, Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, Anna Gaskell, Justine Kurland, Lori Nix, Erwin Olaf, Alex Prager, Alec Soth, and Jeff Wall.


Image: Erwin Olaf, Victoria, 2007. Digital chromogenic print. Courtesy of the artist. © Erwin Olaf.



Telling Tales: Contemporary Narrative Photography, an introduction with Rene Barilleaux from The McNay Art Museum on Vimeo.