By Isabella Seniuta
On September 11th, 2019, the newspaper California published an unnoticed article. This article mentioned without more details the death of the American photographer Chauncey Hare. Born in 1934, the author of Interior America (1978), died in May, forgotten. Only a researcher in history of photography, Camille Balenieri, met him recently.
Until the end, Chauncey Hare remained an enigma for those who had the opportunity to approach him. Camille Balenieri, author of the PhD thesis The art of resisting. Chauncey Hare, a political photographer in the United States, from the 1950s to today, is one of the few to have interviewed him in his home in San Francisco in 2017. Her dissertation is the first critical monographic writing on his work. Chauncey Hare was not an archetype. He was not one of those who taught in an American university or organized workshops. He has never sold a print since 1968, to avoid delivering his work to a speculative market. He was not one of those who wanted to exhibit in the most prestigious American institutions.
Who was Chauncey Hare? He first was an engineer and then became interested in the social condition of workers, as seen in the photographs of his book Interior America (1978). He was involved with the movements of the American counterculture and rose up against the alienation at work of American executives in his self-published book This Was Corporate America(1984). After obtaining three Guggenheim Fellowships, his photographs were shown at MoMA in 1978 during the exhibition Mirrors and Windows alongside Robert Mapplethorpe, Bill Owens and Garry Winogrand. Then, he gradually disappeared from the landscape of American institutions and stopped all photographic activity in 1985 to become a psychotherapist. He bequeathed his work to the Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, and since then he has been living in withdrawal from the photographic world. His name is missing from most of books in history of photography, but the mere fact that the publisher Steidl decided to dedicate a monograph in 2009 on his work, gives a measure of the importance of Chauncey Hare in history. At the time of his death, the heirs of his thought are more and more undermined by the new American capitalist policies. For those who had the chance to see his prints at Berkeley – mastering the big angles, the precision of the compositions, the pictorial quality of the images – Chauncey Hare was a symbol, whose death marks the end of an era.
Thesis of Camille Balenieri prepared under the direction of Michel Poivert:
December 7, 2019 at INHA
Galerie Colbert, 1st Floor, Jullian Room
Géraldine Chouard, Professor at Paris Dauphine University
François Hers, artist and photographer
Jean Kempf, Professor at Université Lumière-Lyon 2
Olivier Lugon, Professor at the University of Lausanne
Michel Poivert, Professor at the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Chauncey Hare, Interior America, with an introduction by Hare, Aperture, New York City, 1978,
Chauncey Hare, This was Corporate America, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 1984
Chauncey Hare, , Protest Photographs, Steidl, Göttingen, 2009
Camille Balenieri, « Chauncey Hare, une conscience radicale. Documentaire social et mysticisme », Transbordeur. Photographie histoire société (« Câble, copie, code. Photographie et technologies de l’information »), Paris, Macula, no 3, 2019, pp. 160-173.