Brett Abbott’s Picks

The photo curator picks his favorite works from the High’s permanent collection
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Leonard Freed’s “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Baltimore” (1964)

“I’m particularly fond of this picture for the same reason that Leonard Freed, the photographer, was delighted by it. It is one of Freed’s most iconic images, in large part because it depicts a popular figure: Martin Luther King Jr. What might be surprising to people, however, is that Freed liked the picture not so much for King’s inclusion as for the gestures of those anonymous figures who surround him on the right side of the composition. The genuine sense of enthusiasm and joy that emanates from their expressions as they reach to embrace King’s hand makes this picture a riveting and emblematic document of our nation’s history.”

Harry Callahan’s “Eleanor, Chicago” (1947) “Harry Callahan was one of Atlanta’s great photographers. In this picture, one of many fascinating portraits he made of his wife, Eleanor, he filled the entire frame with her head and upraised arms, allowing for the lines of her bare skin to articulate an elegant and stunning composition.”

Dorothea Lange’s “White Angel Breadline” (1932)
“Lange was an important pioneer in the practice of social documentary photography in America. This picture comes from her work during the Depression to document the lives of those who had been affected by the greatest financial catastrophe of the century. In focusing on a single individual turned toward the camera amid a crowd of other men, she gives a face to the masses of unemployed workers.”

George N. Barnard’s “Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, No.1” (1864)
“George Barnard made a series of pictures depicting the South during the Civil War. This image shows Atlanta in 1864 and is a nice reminder of our divisive past.”

Vik Muniz’s “Leda and the Swan, after Leonardo da Vinci,” from the Pictures of Junk series (2009)
“This is the first work I acquired for the High’s collection, and as such it is especially significant for me. To create it, Muniz placed his camera on a platform elevated high above a warehouse floor. Using the open space as a canvas, the artist employed art students from the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro to help him collect detritus from the city’s dumps and arrange it into the shape of a recognizable painting after Leonardo da Vinci. Seen from some forty feet above the floor, objects like discarded hub caps, pipes, appliances, and tires became the building blocks for an imaginative, but ephemeral, recreation of the celebrated Renaissance painting, “Leda and the Swan.” The photograph Muniz made of the sculptural arrangement remains the only permanent record of this amazing deed. Measuring approximately 7 ½ feet tall, the enormous print inspires wonder over the transformative powers of artistic creation.

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