DeCordova Presents Exhibition of Iconic Photographs by Larry Fink


This October, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum opens Larry Fink: Primal Empathy, a distinctive presentation of Fink’s iconic candid black-and-white photography. The exhibition, which features over 40 photographs from the artist’s extensive career, will be on view October 19, 2018 through March 10, 2019.

Drawn from deCordova’s permanent collection with loans from the artist, this exhibition focuses on empathy in Fink’s work. Whether photographing members of elite urban society or rural farmers, empathy drives his curiosity about our shared humanity and shapes his decisions for lighting, framing, and positioning his subjects.

This unprecedented exhibition explores Fink’s critical compassion across series that span his career, including his best-known project Social Graces, his surprisingly tender images of boxers, and close studies of flora and fauna around his Pennsylvania farm. Also shown is a selection of rarely seen photographs Fink has taken of public protests in the 1960s and in the last two years. Shown together, these photographs confirm Fink’s lifelong quest for direct and personally felt experiences with those around him.

“This incredible collection showcases Larry Fink’s uncanny ability to capture intimate, nuanced, and spontaneous images of human interaction,” says deCordova Curator Sarah Montross. “Through his photographs, Fink demonstrates compassion, longing, and curiosity for people that cuts across social class and other disparities. Amid our increasingly polemical society, empathy is crucial to public discourse and the topic deserves finer examination. Since Fink has spoken about empathy in connection to his work for decades, this exhibition offers a vital opportunity for further dialogue around the benefits and limitations of understanding the perspectives of others.”

The photographs in the exhibition are grouped by themes, subject, or characteristics, including:

  • Coming of Age: These photographs feature adolescents performing religious rituals or social obligations that publically mark their transition into adulthood, such as debutante balls, First Communions, and graduations.
  • Demonstration: On loan from the artist’s studio, this section features Fink’s photographs of protests and political action both from the 1960s—as he emerged as a photographer—and from the past few years, including the Women’s March.
  • Duality: Many of Fink’s photographs express a duality, often capturing two different figures with similar facial expressions, postures, or other shared characteristics.
  • “The Transformation of Desire”: Fink’s camera relentlessly follows his subjects in search of intimate moments. These photographs might capture a tender caress, entwined limbs, or flesh gripped in a tight embrace—whether on a dance floor, a living room couch, or in the boxing ring.

Larry Fink (b. 1941, lives in Easton, PA) has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1979) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1997), among other major institutions. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships (1976, 1979) and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1978, 1976), and was the recipient of the International Center of Photography’s 2015 Infinity Award for Art. His photographs have been published in Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, and he has published several books. Fink has taught for over forty years, most recently as a professor at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York.

Related Programs (more may be added at a later date)

Artist Talk: Larry Fink
Wednesday, December 12, 6:30–7:30 pm
Free admission
Acclaimed artist Larry Fink will discuss his distinctive approach to photography, his decades-long interest in empathy, and how it influences his work.

Image caption

Larry Fink, First Communion, Bronx, NY, 1961, from the series Making Out 1957-1980, silver gelatin print, 54/75, 15 1/8 x 19 1/4 inches, Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer, © Larry Fink.

Larry Fink_PR.pdf904.41 KB
Larry Fink_First Communion, Bronx, NY.JPG3.18 MB
Larry Fink_Pat Sabatine's Eighth Birthday Party, PA.JPG4.34 MB
Larry Fink_N.Y.C. Studio 54.JPG5.03 MB
Larry Fink_Boxing, Champs Gym, Philadelphia, PA.jpg1.04 MB
Larry Fink_N.Y.C. English Speaking Union.jpg1.59 MB
Larry Fink Image Captions.pdf265 KB