A selection of photographs from the MAM Collection that complements the current exhibition Crash. Pause. Rewind. (on view at MAM through November 24). The curator of Crash, Eric Fredericksen, describes that exhibition as "a critique of the allure of images of destruction." The "allure" that Fredrickson refers to is not specific to contemporary culture. Though most of the artists in Crash. Pause. Rewind came of age in the 1970's and 80's they reference the morbid curiosity for images of death and manipulate distressing images from decades past. Indeed the fascination and violence appear to be a distinctly human trait. People will close their eyes but peek through their fingers, crane their necks and stop traffic to look at a recent car crash or crime scene.
The media - newspapers, advertisers and film makers - make full use of the human inclination to be voyeurs of the misfortune of others. Stan Healy, like his more famous counterpart, NYC photographer Weegee, knew of the attraction the American public has for tragic images. Like Weegee, he rode around with a police radio in his car so he could be one of the first to arrive at the scene of an accident, train wreck or fire.
The Missoulian, the paper where Healy worked for more than 17 years, 1945-1962, published many of Healy's photographs of crime scenes, car wrecks and house fires. Why do these images persist and engage us now and, to this day, why do artists still invest themselves in portraying the tragic moment? Perhaps it is because, as Sean O'Brian writes in the Healy catalog: "The content of such works of art... speak to the fundamentally chaotic, contradictory and sometimes-terrible flux at the heart of existence." And so we are drawn in to the upturned vehicle, saddened and maybe repulsed, but we look. And look again.
NOTES ON MAM'S HEALY PHOTOGRAPHS
When Stan Healy passed away in 1996, his friend, Timothy Gordon, acquired his massive collection of negatives, prints, slides, notes and ephemera. Many of Healy's original photographic prints were damaged from time, use and neglect, but fortunately Healy saved his negatives, and even filed them to some degree, albeit in numerous and random boxes and with other items, such a collection of small rocks.
Missoula photographer Lucy Capehart waded through the many containers, reviewed thousands of images and selected those that embodied the best of Healy's motivations and instincts. She expertly reprinted thirty-nine negatives for a MAM exhibition, Stan Healy: Artist's Eye, in 2003. Healy probably never imagined that his images would be reproduced in this way and be viewed in this context. But the process culminated in Timothy Gordon's generous donation of these works to the MAM Collection, which continues to allow us to reevaluate Healy's social and historic imagery in new contexts relevant to contemporary culture.
Among the works included in the exhibit were the following:
An illustrated catalog of the original exhibition, featuring contributions from Capehart, MAM Curator Stephen Glueckert, photojournalist Keith Graham, and philosopher Sean O'Brien, is available for purchase in MAM's bookstore.