Allan Sekula

Born 1951 in Erie, PA
Died 2013 in Los Angeles, CA

During a career that spanned photography, film, and writing, Allan Sekula produced incisive documents about labor, nationality, and the history and uses of photography. Deeply skeptical of the mythologies and fictions promoted by a society shaped by capitalism, Sekula made work that was resolutely public and political—addressing the concerns of an engaged citizen investigating the networks of political and economic power and their intersection with individual lives and landscapes.

The notebooks presented in the 2014 Biennial are related to a number of Sekula’s projects—for example, his 2007 project Polonia and Other Fables, which looks at the myths of Polish transnational identity in an era of political alignment between Poland and the United States. Though they contain private musings, the notebooks display a sardonic humor and closeness to his subjects that underpinned his “public” work. An interdependence of word and image, each inflecting the other, mirrors the structure of Sekula’s photographs, which are usually shown with texts in carefully constructed sequences. Together they give a partial portrait of Sekula as an artist whose critical eye melded history, wit, and empathy as he worked to portray the realities of a world in the midst of enormous transformations.