Monday, 31 May 2010

Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera Tate Modern, London

Exposed is full of sneaky images and surreptitious views, hidden cameras and nefarious goings-on. This is a rough ride, by turns entertaining, horrifying, morbid and compulsive. Taking us from the American civil war to the burning oil fields of the first Gulf war, from an 1860s execution in China to the death chamber in a modern Mississippi penitentiary, there's plenty that is ghastly and ghoulish, much that is seamy, much that is innocuous but invasive, such as Harry Callahan's images of women lost in thought, and Yale Joel's 1946 shots through a two-way mirror in a Broadway cinema lobby.

Kohei Yoshiyuki photographed people having sex, and watching others having sex in a public park at night. We spy a KGB agent rummaging through files, and approaching a secret meeting place in the woods. The paparazzi snap Liz Taylor and Richard Burton snogging. Merry Alpern's great series of shots through dirty windows of a brothel, seen from the photographer's own building, are all the more tantalising for being such fragmentary views. There's sex and strangeness here, electrocutions and suicides, lynchings and murders and death squad assassinations.

As Kim Novak takes her seat in the railroad dining car, all the guys in the carriage turn to watch, and we watch them watching her. Greta Garbo avoids the camera, and a dead man on an Italian garage ramp, hit in the back, no longer cares. There's a vitrine of walking stick cameras, watch-fob cameras, cameras with hidden second lenses that point in a different direction to the one you think they do.

But key images are missing, the most obvious being the infamous shots taken at Abu Ghraib. I keep thinking there's an even better show to be made – one with a less obvious American bias.

Until 3 October. Details: 020-7887 8888.

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