The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the Unconscious

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9781597111935: The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the Unconscious

"The Unseen Eye" presents a wonderfully idiosyncratic and compelling collection of photographs assembled around a particular theme: in each image, the gaze of the subject is averted, the face obscured or the eyes firmly closed. The pictures present a catalog of anti-portraiture, characterized at first glance by what its subjects conceal, not by what the camera reveals. Amassed over the course of 30 years by New York collector W.M. Hunt, the collection includes works by masters such as Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Imogen Cunningham, William Klein, Robert Mapplethorpe and Robert Frank, as well as works by lesser-known artists and vernacular images. Hunt's instinctive pursuit of striking images has resulted in a collection that manages to evoke a picture of humanity from birth to death, with all the associated nuances of memory, wit, eroticism, fear, grief and horror. More than 350 intensely evocative and frequently surreal images are brilliantly sequenced in this volume; the cumulative effect is unnerving and riveting. Most critically, the images are drawn together by the narrative of the collector himself, in a highly personal monologue that weaves throughout the book, in which Hunt offers his own perceptive responses to the images he has gathered over many years. The result is a series of surprising epiphanies about how and why one collects.

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About the Author:

W.M. Hunt is a collector and dealer specializing in contemporary photography in New York, where he also teaches at the School of Visual Arts. A selection from his own collection was exhibited at the Recontres d’Arles Photographie in 2005 and later at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland, and at FOAM, Amsterdam.

William A. Ewing is the curator and director of the Musee de l'Elysee, Lausanne. He lives in Switzerland.


Hunt is a collector, and has been for more than 30 years. His is a curious collection: all of his photographs are about concealed or obscured eyes. As a result, his book, which draws only from his collection, is all about the role the viewer plays in photography and what it means to look at pictures. With works from photographers like Brassai, Joel Peter Witkin, Cindy Sherman, Alexandra Boulat, Adam Fuss, it is also an impressive survey of photography from the 19th century to the present. (The New York Times Magazine)

The Unseen Eye by W.M. Hunt is perhaps the most compelling anthology of photographs I have encountered. Comprised of 370 images from Hunt's largest collection of photographs, Collection Dancing Bear, it is a unique assortment of images, ranging from vernacular photographs from the 19th and 20th centuries, to iconic reportage images, to photographs from the giants of the photographic art world. (Sarah Bradley Photo-Eye)

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