“Fred Stein, Out of Exile, A Refugee’s Response to Fascism” is the latest exhibition at the Schumacher Gallery on the fourth floor of the Blackmore Library here at Capital. The exhibition features the work of modernist photographer Fred Stein. The exhibit is curated between Stein’s work from his time in Paris and other parts of Europe in the 1930s, his work from New York City in the 1940s, and a number of his portraits.
The portraits themselves are particularly stunning examples of Stein’s photography. A multitude of famous faces line the wall in the gallery, from Hellen Keller to Georgia O’Keefe, Salvador Dali, Fidel Castro, and many more.
The most striking of these is Stein’s portrait of Albert Einstein, an image I had seen countless times in textbooks, newspapers, Google Image searches, and no doubt in many sarcastic and poorly worded Facebook memes. It’s a fascinating experience to unexpectedly see an image that’s been so deeply integrated into our culture hung up on a local gallery wall.
This does not discount the other photographs collected in the exhibition. Stein’s work prominently features images of the working class, from shoe-shiners and construction workers in New York to street-side vendors and flower sellers in Paris.
One particular photograph, named Le Gaz, features a Parisian homeless man sheltering from the cold beneath an advertisement for gas heating. This ironic juxtaposition not only shows the plight of the Parisian poor, but also the thought and wit behind the lens of Fred Stein’s camera.
Another stand-out photo is Man with Bread, another portrait. Unlike the others, this picture’s subject isn’t a famous artist, architect or great thinker, but a normal 1930s Parisian man. Set alongside the other portraits, Man with Bread shows that the common man going about his day is just as worthy of being recorded as any exceptional personality.
Children are also frequent subjects of the work being showcased in the exhibition. In particular, Girl in Car is a great example of how Stein shows children in his photography. The photo shows a young girl sitting in a toy car on a New York street. However, the camera does not look down on the girl, but instead shows her from the level of the world that she sees and experiences.
This highlights a common theme in all of the photographs featured in the gallery: seeing the world from unexpected perspectives.
Having an art gallery on campus that can put on exhibitions like this is a privilege that not all Capital students take advantage of. If you ever needed an excuse to head up to the fourth floor of the library, now is a great time to do so.
“Fred Stein, Out of Exile, A Refugee’s Response to Fascism” will be housed in the Schumacher Gallery until Oct. 23.