Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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David Fenton Captures a Jumpin’ Jagger with Flash

Not everything looks worse in black and white.  In the case of David Fenton’s small gem of a photography collection “The Eye of the Revolution”, worse could be more loosely translated to more serious.

These serious images of the seventies revolution are pocketed away in the nondescript Steven Kasher Gallery. This small exhibit is in a high ceiling room with the black and white photo prints interrupting the otherwise stark white walls. Their somber gray tones draw the unsuspecting viewer in with a note of concern. After a closer inspection they either draw back with indulgent smiles. John Lennon and Yoko Ono onstage together, Mick Jagger doing a power jump, bare feet dancing girls with long flowing hair.

When one thinks of the hippie and rock and roll revolution all the monochromatic tones of black and white photography do not come to mind. Flowers do not come in black or white. That being said, it is unfair to stereotype the revolution of the seventies to the movement for peace. Spine straightening social issues such as the fight against racism and “Nam” plagued what “The Who” referred to as “my generation”.

David Fenton was part of that generation. When he prowled the streets, parks and concerts of New York City he could not have known how people would view the history he captured on film as the “revolution”. He himself had access behind police lines to capture all these pictures of protest. Now a few decades older I believe that David Fenton uses this medium to add a sense of timelessness and credibility to the subjects of his photos. Yet these icons of youth and freedom are now parents and adults in positions of power that they themselves rebelled against in their youth. I find that a full

The print that stood out to me not just because of its size but its subject is the aptly titled “Policemen on Horseback Chasing Boy Who Burned an American Flag”.  Two policemen are chasing a small boy who can’t be older than 7 or eight across the lawn on horseback. Fenton chooses not to center the boy in the frame because the larger issue at hand is the abuse of authority over civilians. The burning of an American flag is in fact illegal but in those times of protest the little boy was not the only doing such rebellious things. The fact that he was chosen to be made an example of simply because of his age is all captured in this photo almost as proof of something otherwise incredible.

My favorite photo by far is of the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones in New York City is captured in a midair power leap. The point of view is from the audience so the shot comes out with his figure at the top of the frame. This causes the viewers to find themselves looking at him in the eyes of an audience member in 1972. The lighting is not deliberate in Fenton’s part as most of the concerts the Rolling Stones had and have coordinated lighting. The light outlines Young Jagger’s features and his lithe, wiry frame is a lighter gray than the dark background was the crowd watches him. The music of the Rolling Stones was important in that time period to the generation of the 1970’s and Fenton chooses to convey him as the center of attention by placing in the center of the shot

            The Rolling Stones and a boy who burned a flag may not have much in common but they are literally brought together in David Fenton’s aptly titled exhibit the “Eye of the Revolution”. Just like the name implies the music and youth of the seventies was at the center of the story social issues that young people faced in the seventies.