The regional museum that could, just launched another Met-worthy exhibit with Ed Clark: American Photojournalist on display through June 1, 2014.
A street photographer from Tennessee, Ed Clark joined the elite cadre of photojournalists at Life, starting as a stringer in 1936. Although you might not recognize his byline — Life let him go when it downsized in 1963 — you know his iconic 1945 image of the tearful Navy accordionist Graham W. Jackson, Sr. playing “Goin’ Home” as President Roosevelt’s funeral train left Warm Springs.
Ed Clark’s images are of uniformly high quality — well-composed, exposed and focused. No mean trick for a guy working at a time when cameras (and tripods) were heavy, exposures long, focus manual, lighting tricky, and black and white film dominant. But it’s not Clark’s technical skills that make his images memorable, it’s his ability to connect with people.
Clark was a populist photographer. His pictures tell stories about people, from commoner to celebrity, from peasant to President. Like Norman Rockwell’s paintings, his images are powerful, direct and always worth a second look. Clark said “Our senses are so assailed by different things. I just tried to get people to stop.”
The 40+ Clark photos at the Bruce — on loan from the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation in Pleasantville, New York — show Clark as a generalist, at home in Hollywood or Paris, in the Oval Office or behind the Iron Curtain, photographing a women’s club meeting or the hands of a surgeon performing an operation. My favorite, and Clark’s personal favorite, is the moody image of a plein air painter working on a sidewalk in post-war Montmartre.
If the exhibit whets your appetite for Clark, as it did mine, you’ll find more of his images online in the Time-Life Gallery and for sale elsewhere as posters.