FSU’s very own Museum of Fine Arts is a wonderful place full of beautiful, colorful and wildly abstract pieces of art. But upon walking downstairs, one is faced with an ocean of black and white. No less beautiful and no less artistic, these photos taken by professionals and amateurs alike display both people and moments long gone.
Downstairs, the MoFA is currently hosting an exhibit called “In The Streets: Photographing Urban Spaces.” Part of a much larger collection, “In The Streets” is a traveling exhibit owned and curated by Ringling which displays major cities as they have grown and changed through the 1900s. It shows us snapshot views of how cities and urban areas develop with a fascinating look on major construction projects in progress and old views of memorable areas such as Times Square. Streets filled with classic automobiles and the new look that skyscrapers and other massive structures lend to a place as it fills with people, booming and changing completely in less than a lifetime.
The exhibit doesn’t just show how the look of a city changes. The city is a place of collision between the rich and the poor, the old and the new, progression and tradition. The exhibit displays these things well. You can see pictures of fur coats and clotheslines, streets full of cars and streets full of trash and dirtied children—even a church being built to atone for a city’s sins of excess. “In The Streets” also makes a display of the cultural growth a city goes through. One photograph of a woman walking down the street being cat called by every man around her could show the objectification of women in society, but at the time the artist thought it to be an example of how women were able to walk alone, gaining an independence in life and facing vulgar things with endurance. Another photo shows something as simple as three people looking intently in different directions—which is actually the title. Through such photos we can see how life in booming urban areas changes over time, and how it often doesn’t.
The question arises what makes this art? Many of the photographs are of menial things, such as three people looking in different directions, a man walking alone down a street or a woman walking with her child. The thing is, each photograph in the exhibit tells a story, each is another facet along the storyline of a city growing into a booming metropolis. It makes one question our own city, the bustling capital that is Tallahassee. The big city with a small town feel is growing and culture is growing with it. What traditions will we hold dear and what will we let go of in the name of growth and progress? What will we build and what will we change? What will change in the city and what about it will change us? Is that man walking alone down the street really worth taking a photo of? Well, he is a part of the city just as much as you and I—a part of the culture, the change as well as the tradition. Go out and explore this changing city, there might be some art out there to find.
“In The Streets” will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts at 530 West Call Street, on FSU campus until October 5. Hours for the museum are 9:00 am– 4:00 pm on weekdays and 1:00 pm– 4:00 pm on weekends.
by ROBERT COCANOUGHER / contributing writer