First in Italy, Florence's SpazioFoto Credito Artigiano is hosting a solo exhibition devoted to 60 photographs by American photographer Bill Owens. The exhibits come from Owens' three main series of work from the 1970s: Suburbia (1972), Our kind of people (1976) and Working (1978), including also works from a major project called Leisure: Americans at play, which the author is currently at work on.
The images document the American middle-class lifestyle and are part of projects that have never been exhibited in Europe before. In particular, the book 'Leisure' will be published only by the end of 2003.
Since the late '60s, Owens has been documenting relevant social phenomena of his neighbourhood, such as immigration towards the US west coast. His first book, Suburbia, is a catalogue of images portraying suburban areas with various yard sales, stereotypes of streets, pre-fabricated homes, co-owned garages and small swimming pools. Published in 1972, Suburbia is about these places and the people who live there. Some pictures portray women at Tupperware parties, parades, garden parties and other social meetings.
Published in 1975, Our Kind of People is a collection of images documenting American civic groups with their habits and rituals: the photographs in this book mainly portray political parties, religious groups, sports, schools…
Different occupations were recorded in 'Working. I do it for money' (published 1977), a collection of images portraying people at work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Owens is currently finishing a project called 'Leisure. Americans at play', which he began in the 1970s. Leisure is about sports, in particular major sporting events such as Indianapolis 500-mile Race, motor speed races run by big tracks, wrestling matches and more.
Inspired by Diane Arbus, Walker Evans and Weegee, Owens photography eschewed formal values and fine art to practice a sort of visual anthropology.
Bill Owens was born in California in 1938. From 1968 to 1978, he contributed some photo reportages to the Californian newspaper 'Livermore Independent', which was published in the Bay Area. In 1976 he was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. Later, he was also given two scholarships by the National Endowment for the Arts. From 1978 to 1982, he worked as a free lance photographer with the magazines Life and Newsweek. In the early 1980s, he decided to abandon professional photography to become brewer. In 1983 he opened the 'Buffalo Bill's Brewery'. Three years later, he founded the American Brewer Magazine. In 1999 he returned to photography.
From 1996 until the present day, his work has been included in exhibitions hosted at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Jose Museum of Art, Paris Salon de la Photo, Centre Photographic de l'Ile de France, San Francisco Robert Koch Gallery, Seattle Greg Kucera Gallery and New York Howard Greenberg and Mattex Marks galleries. Projects by Bill Owens are kept at the Museum of Modern Art, National Museum of American Art and Center for Creative Photography, in New York, at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum, Berkeley Art Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, Paris Bibliothèque Nationale, Stockholm Museum of Modern Art and in private collections.
Photographs by Owens have also been presented on the occasion of the event 'Modena per la fotografia 2001'.
Bill Owens is attending the exhibition opening ceremony in Florence. On the occasion, he is also holding a conference on his work on Friday, January 17, 2003 at 5 p.m. at the SACI- Studio Art Center International in via Antonino 11..
The exhibition catalogue, available in two languages, includes some of the most beautiful images.