Starlet: American-born French dancer, singer, and actress Josephine Baker, left, is flanked by her adoring fans. Photographer unknown. Paris 1927 - vintage gelatin silver print. <em>*Photo supplied</em>
Starlet: American-born French dancer, singer, and actress Josephine Baker, left, is flanked by her adoring fans. Photographer unknown. Paris 1927 - vintage gelatin silver print. *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, JAN. 11: Photographs of Marilyn Monroe in a bar, a Bermudian diving gracefully into the ocean, and a group of friends leisurely picnicking on a French river bank are part of an exhibition tied together by the theme Quenching Thirst.

They are part of a new photographic show at Masterworks made up of museum director Tom Butterfield’s personal photography collection.

The theme of the exhibition was inspired by Butterfield’s employment at the Bristol (wine) Cellar in the early 1980s.

The collection initially centred around wine, then branched out to bars which then evolved to include the whole notion of liquid intake as well as more abstract interpretations of satisfying a need or desire.

“To me, that is the beauty of glomming onto an idea and a theme and then from it expanding it. There is no end to an interpretation of a muse in my humble opinion.”

Different interpretations

Museum curator Elise Outerbridge added: “It is about quenching thirst. It is water, people diving into water, it is has a lot of different interpretations — a thirst for knowledge — there are a lot of different ways to look at it.”

The collection was last displayed at the Bermuda National Gallery in 1996 and now opens with a few new additions.

According to Outerbridge, the collection has gained much value since then.

“What I find interesting is that this is Tom’s personal collection, he has been developing it, and I am pleasantly surprised, after doing the research, how the collection has increased in value — both artistic value and monetary value.

“When we started, people said to us that photographs were not art and you can’t have them in an art show but because of Tom’s mentorship I started following photographs and realized what an important art form they really are.”

The opening of the show corresponds with the opening of a photography exhibition in the main Butterfield Gallery (see lead story) and marks the start of a new emphasis on photographic work at the museum over the next year.

The Butterfield show runs until the end of September while Quenching Thirst runs for three-weeks in the Rick Faries Gallery.

Among the standout images from the Quenching Thirst exhibition is a snapshot of Marilyn Monroe catching photographer Roy Schatt taking a candid snapshot of her in a diner.

Butterfield said: “She’s saying, ‘ I got You!’

“It is unposed of her in a bar — I really like that work.”

The photograph was used in Edward Steichen’s exhibition Family of Man which has been hailed as one of the most successful and inspirational photographic exhibitions in history.

There is also a photo of actress and singer Josephine Baker by Henri Cartier Bresson (pictured above) as well as photographs by esteemed photographer Walter Rutherford, author of The Story of Bermuda published in 1932.

One photo that stands out for Butterfield is one of his father Dudley taken by an unknown photographer. It is a picture of him diving into the ocean with a fishing boat in the background. “What I love is the juxtaposition,” he explained. “Particularly in black and white the photography presses horizons — it looks like he is going to dive into a boat because it pushes the planes together in 2D form.”

Butterfield will also include a vintage silk screen from the 1930s of a Perrier advert that will introduce the show and there is one oil painting from the 50s from Toronto. However, the bulk of the show is about photography.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to take advantage of the idea of a photographic theme and give the island the chance to see some of the work that I have collected over the years.”