Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s, Barbican, London - Reviews - Art - The Independent

Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s, Barbican, London

A collection of photos from across the globe offers a rare opportunity to reflect on two decades of revolution, war and social change

Everything was moving – but where was it going? At the Barbican, curator Kate Bush gives us a snapshot of an exploding world just as the thing begins to blow. You can almost hear the sound of ripping. A few years later it would be possible for Francis Fukuyama to announce the End of History. But the world of the 1960s and 1970s was a moment of yang, not yin, of irresistible centrifugal force, as the certainties of simpler times were torn apart.

This is clearest downstairs in the exhibition, where two great South African photographers bear witness to the apartheid state. David Goldblatt, safely on the white side, coolly records the chafing, riving contradictions of a system rooted in systematic injustice. We see the Afrikaners still in the saddle, the hatchet-faced National Party commandos escorting prime minister Verwoerd to the party's 50th anniversary celebrations, the farmers and their children innocently at play on their endless properties. And we see what underpins that tranquil state: the evening exodus from Johannesburg, whites in their cars headed one way, massed blacks on foot going another, the miners' windowless concrete bunks at a gold mine, the smoky Soweto hillside covered in identical hovels.

Then the black photographer Ernest Cole takes us right inside: the jam-packed trains, the same bunks now heaving with miners, police swooping on blacks to enforce the hated pass laws, a gang of blacks mugging whites on Johannesburg streets – black and white not separate at all, as state dogma insisted, but forced together like the components of a bomb.

In the same years on the other side of the Atlantic Bruce Davidson recorded the controlled explosion of the civil-rights movement: whites in Alabama grimace and taunt the passing Freedom Riders, a white woman in a New York drugstore scowls at having to share the counter with a black, Klansmen circle a flaming cross; but all the while the blacks are calmly implacable, whether hauled off to jail by their feet, listening to Malcolm X in New York or marching with Martin Luther King on Montgomery's State Capitol.

Of course, we cannot avoid looking at this work with the wisdom of hindsight: we know what happened next. This also conditions the way we regard the Vietnam war photographs of Larry Burrows, and there is some curatorial sleight of hand in presenting the work of "rather a hawk" (as Burrows described himself) as if they were stills from Apocalypse Now. At the time, Life magazine was happy to run them in heroic mode, these images of suffering GIs holding back the commie horde.

What the United States was doing to Vietnam it had done 20 years before to Japan, and Shomei Tomatsu, the "godfather" of modern Japanese photography, cannot tear himself away from the feelings of estrangement and humiliation that were the occupiers' gifts, along with their chewing gum and chocolate. But abuse and domination is not the end of the story, because in Tomatsu's work along with those ugly emotions there is the exhilarating, vertiginous sense of breaking out into a strange new world. Authenticity is the photographer's holy grail. For centuries, Japanese artists had refined a particular stylised vision which excluded the rest of the world as rigorously as the shoguns barred access to their ports. Now at last, in these ranks of riot police and in the protester flying through the air, here was something real, however dark or feverish or painful.

Authenticity was harder to pin down in the US, the heart of the new imperium, where the persuasive arts had been taken to new heights. Back then, photographers proved their sincerity by putting on the sackcloth of black and white: to shoot colour was to go over to the other side. It took the cussedness of William Eggleston to challenge the advertisers at their own game, recording in lush, full-spectrum Kodachrome the cadmium green of a diner's banquette, the cobalt blue and two-tone tyres of a new car, the slick, super-abundant stuff of the first fully homogenised industrial economy. If the world was exploding, here was the detonator. But these images are cool and still and affectless: Eggleston records the effort to charm and to sell, but remains completely unimpressed, and gives the rust and discarded cans and festering rubbish just as much of his icy attention as the material of the Dream. The sun-drenched woman at the wheel of her sedan catches the photographer's eye, but it doesn't mean anything. And, up above, the American sky is huge and indifferent.

To 13 Jan (020-7638 8891)

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week