50 Years of Photography
Martin Karplus is a chemist, Professor emeritus at Harvard University, and Nobel laureate who has spent the past fifty years consumed by a passion for documenting humanity in thousands of photographs. Sourced from Europe, Asia, and the Americas, these photographs candidly capture societies at pivotal moments in their cultural and economic development in rich Kodachrome color. From September 25 through November 28, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York will present these works in his first ever New York retrospective, Martin Karplus: Photographs 1953-2009.
Martin Karplus: Photographs 1953-2009
In 1953, nearing the completion of his PhD at Cal Tech, the Austrian-born, American Karplus received his uncle’s Leica camera as a gift from his parents and headed to Oxford University on a fellowship. In the ensuing years he would spend months on end exploring the globe, documenting what he describes in his artist statement as a “vision of a world, much of which no longer exists”. Images from the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, Italy, France, Yugoslavia, and Germany present the closure of a bygone lifestyle as societies modernized and rebuilt in the wake of World War 2 and the dawning of the Cold War. Further travels throughout the 1950s took him to the Americas, where he photographed the exuberance of suburban Californian prosperity alongside Native and Latin Americans living a way of life uninterrupted for centuries, yet largely unheard of today. A more recent series from 2008-09 presents a look at China and India as each nation’s unfurling economy brings rapid modernization, as well as to Japan, where it has firmly taken root.
The pictures reflect the inquisitive glance and the profoundly humanist vision of a young scientist in the idealistic post-war period. Taking pains to capture truly candid images, Karplus would employ a Leica Hektor long-focus lens, focusing on nearby objects in a technique reminiscent of American Farm Security Administration photographers. The then-novel 35mm Kodachrome film infuses these images with its distinctively rich, saturated tone, breathing a vibrant life into scenes ranging from Chinese rice paddies to early Communist Yugoslavia and the beaches of California. Click here for the artist’s statement.
About Martin Karplus
Professor Martin Karplus is a pioneer in the use of magnetic resonance imaging in the field of chemistry. As an eight-year-old, Karplus and his family were expelled from Vienna after the Anschluss, eventually finding a new home in the United States. Karplus completed his BA at Harvard University and earned his PhD under the two-time Nobel laureate Linus Paulin at the California Institute of Technology. His long career as a leading scientist brought him to Oxford University, the University of Illinois, Columbia University, and Harvard University as well as several guest professorships in France. The Harvard professor emeritus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on October 9, 2013 for the “development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems” (shared with Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel).
In a twelve-year period, from 1953 to 1965, Karplus produced more than 4,000 color slides. Since 2005, Martin Karplus’s images have been exhibited in various cities in the United States and Europe, most recently in the solo exhibition “Martin Karplus, la couleur des années 50” at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris in the summer of 2013.
The exhibition will travel to the Austrian Cultural Forum in Washington, DC, in January, 2015 and the University of Vienna May 2015 to mark the occasion of its 650th anniversary.
Opening Reception: Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 7:30 – 9 p.m. The artist will be present. Admission is free.