The Will McBride Retrospective at the C/O Gallery, Berlin
If you pass by a photograph of Bridget Bardot jumping beneath her French villa La Madrague, 1955, you will soon find yourself immersed in Will McBride’s delectable retrospective on the second floor of the C/O gallery. Known for pouring his heart into his art, McBride confronts the world around him at different stages throughout his life and therefore captures the poignancy of the social context in which he works. He describes his photography as more of a moral venture than voyeurism, because of the responsibility he feels for his audience.
Born and educated in America, he moved to Germany in 1955 where he was forever battling censorship laws, because of his provocative nudes. His book Coming of Age has always been a cult favourite, because it captures the energy of a city reborn when he was an American student in a foreign country and “Berlin became truly young again.” The series Riverboat Shuffle, 1959 catches these students in their jubilation, exposing us to their untainted spontaneity.
There is a voyeuristic element to his work, which makes us feel like we’re invading or rather being invited into the fast, cool lives of his friends. There’s a series of 1959 photographs, which depict the group entwined and relaxing in his apartment. I was rather touched by an endearing photograph of an besotted young couple Jan and Evie, which is a romantic portrayal of young love in its simplest form. In more intimate moments he also photographs his young wife in moments of blissful nakedness. I loved Barbara Nude with a Veil, 1959 in which the diaphanous white lace romanticises their perceived poverty. But, my favourite piece was Barbara Sleeping, 1959 in which her naked sleeping body is twisted within their bed sheets at dawn.
Nudity was a strong theme throughout his career with images like the the somewhat homo-erotic Young Men Wrestling 1959. Not only does this capture the camaraderie amongst his friends, but is also reminiscent of classical sculpture and therefore demonstrative of the obsession with the idealised male nude that plagued Hitler’s campaign. Sadly, there was a disappointing lack of postcards, but Youths at Dtrandbad, 1958 captures a group of beautiful young Germans indulging in popcorn as they sit in contemplation, their bodies exposed by their minimal swimwear.
Both Will McBride and Magnum Photographic Agency have put on equally brilliant shows, so hurry over to the C/O gallery in 2014 whilst they’re being exhibited in unison. Whatever you do don’t neglect the photobooth or rush out without pausing in their beautiful bookshop, which is overflowing with tempting art and culture magazines, photography books and postcards.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com