‘Overlooked’ photos deserve another view 

Robert Tat, director of the San Francisco photography gallery that bears his name, calls his current exhibition “Overlooked.”

The title refers to works he thinks are outstanding, but that art collectors and visitors to the gallery have passed over or given only cursory attention.

He says, “I have often wanted to pull these underappreciated pictures aside and ask the collector to reconsider them — explaining why I think the photograph has merit. This is what prompted me to assemble this selection of wonderful photographs.”

Twenty-one masterful images in the show represent an impressive, unexpected variety of styles.

The collection includes works from different periods in the history of photography, from the 1920s through ’40s, to the present day. There are works by renowned artists such as Imogen Cunningham and Walker Evans, and some by lesser-known photographers.

The arrangement of the photos adds to the power of the individual images and the overall exhibit.

For example, Cunningham’s “John Bovington, 1929 (legs),” with its sparse, somewhat abstract quality, is next to William Rittase’s “untitled industrial abstraction,” an image of a dim factory with dramatic arrows of light highlighting the activity inside.
The sharp contrast of the two photos, far from distracting, brings out the unique elegance of form in each image.

William E. Dassonville’s 1925 photo “California Street, San Francisco” is set in a vague, purple and black, out-of-focus haze. With its exquisite atmosphere and stunning beauty, it looks like a painting. 

Beauty was an important feature in 1920s American photography, in contrast to the documentary style of the 1940s and ’50s, when the focus turned to social issues and the notion of beauty was downplayed in favor of realism and depth of content.

Evans’ “Dock Workers, Havana, 1936,” a portrait of men covered in gritty dirt, exemplifies the above style.

Another particularly outstanding work is a 1930s vintage photo of William F. Simpson’s “Sleeping Man,” depicting an elderly gentleman on a wooden bench.

While the sepia tone provides an added touch, what makes the photo so fascinating are ordinary details, some even so slight they’re hardly noticeable: the creases in his coat and pants, his hat, his old and worn shoes, and the coarse and worn texture of the bench.

These pictures may have been overlooked, but each has a distinctiveness which makes for a rewarding exhibition.


Where: Robert Tat Gallery, 49 Geary St., Suite 211, San Francisco
When: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes April 24  
Contact: (415) 781-1122; www.roberttat.com

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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