American photographer Peter Turnley’s solo exhibition at the National Fine Arts Museum can be defined as a real cultural event. The exhibition has been promoted as the first occasion in which a lens artist from the United States presents a solo exhibition at our Fine Arts Museum. However, this mere fact, in itself, would not be that important if it were not about a photographer with a great international acknowledgement that counts with an astonishing work in terms of content, a work that is beautiful for its aesthetic level and transcendental for being a historical document of an invaluable cultural value.
Peter Turnley has been a photojournalist for 40 years. He has travel half the world, has made photographs in over 90 countries, has been present in the main military conflicts of the last decades, has risked his life in many occasions, and has obtained dozens of visual documents that serve as testimony of violence, oppression, inequality, poverty, death, but also human beauty and energy.
Niurka Fanego, curator of the exhibition, faced the challenge of organizing an exhibition that made justice to Peter’s work, which is vast and diverse, to offer to the Cuban public the best and most representative pieces of his work. Around 130 photographs can be enjoyed in one of the halls on the second floor of the Cuban Art Building, and this is merely a selection of four of his photographic series.
Nevertheless, if, in an anthological exhibition of these dimensions, the selection of the pieces is essential, the museographic design also bears a strong responsibility. In this regard, the integrated work of two high level specialists like Niurka Fanego and architect Alfredo Rosales, portrays a result of excellence. Museography is clean, balanced, elegant, without much baroque influence or excess. Despite the fact that it offers a great deal of information through texts on the walls, we do not feel overwhelmed or exhausted. On the contrary, the exhibition is voraciously consumed, photograph after photograph, sensation after sensation.
Peter is an artist who gathers three exceptional virtues: an eye that is capable of composing, in fractions of seconds, a fragment of reality with a high level of aesthetic elaboration; a special instinct that allows him to know that fragment of reality he has framed in his lens comprises a profound anthropological, social, and cultural content; the sufficient human sensitivity and courage to go after these images, getting involved and felling solidarity with the “other’s” reality. All of it causes Peter Turnley to be an exceptional artist and man.
The mystery of documentary photography has always consisted in knowing how to make art with the registry of an unaltered physical and phenomena reality in the instant in which the shutter is activated.
Peter Turnley responds to that with each of his photographs, but that mystery continues present in them. His philosophy is simple, but effective: he assume photography as a means that allows us to mutually see us, to capture the other’s feeling, to get to know each other and recognize us in our similarities and differences; photography as a means that allows to share an experience, the experience of being alive, here and now.
–Dr. Hamlet Fernández