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Chromatic Candor, The Photography of Bob Woolcock

Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art / Snug Harbor Cultural Center
1000 Richmond Terrace, 718-425-3560
Staten Island
January 8 - April 26, 2009
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Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is pleased to announce an exhibition featuring previously unpublished photographs by Robert Woolcock (1947- ) and the legacy of his father, Edward P. Woolcock (1913-2006) – a portfolio of images that were masterfully restored. The exhibition, on view in the Newhouse Center for the Arts, juxtaposes a series of childhood photographs with a series of photographs taken during the Vietnam War (1959- 1975) which are profoundly revealing.

Stylistically, Woolcock’s candid portraiture in vivid kodachrome colors is reminiscent of Cartier-Bresson’s Black and White photographs from nearly half a decade earlier. Cartier-Bresson famously stated that the decisive moment in photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression. In addition, the photographs taken by Woolcock during his duty in Vietnam document his experience in a photojournalistic fashion.

Bob Woolcock was born in Anaheim and grew up in Garden Grove, California. His performance in public schools was mediocre, but he switched his course of study from business administration to photo communications at California State University, Fullerton. His inspiration to pursue photography came about after watching the complete Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, in a documentary film class. The artist suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in an instant.

Woolcock’s interest in cameras started early with an Ansco 620, Kodak Brownie Starflex 127, and eventually his father’s 35mm Leica rangefinder which he bought in Germany during the war. The Leica camera would accompany the artist for many years. Using the camera as an extension of his eye, the anonymity that it gave him in a crowd or during an intimate moment was essential in overcoming the formal and unnatural behavior of those who were aware of being photographed.

Woolcock was drafted into the Army in July of 1969 and spent two years abroad including a one year tour in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne as a combat infantryman, leaving Vietnam with the rank of buck sergeant. While on duty, he snapped hundreds of photos documenting the war. His style and sense of chromatic implementation are stunning and his compositions are poetic.

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