On Aug. 24, 2023, the Walker Art Center will open “Allan Sekula: Fish Story,” Sekula’s groundbreaking nine-chapter image-based research project exploring the profound impact of the globalized shipping trade and its relationship to romantic notions of the sea.
Regarded as one of the most influential photographers and thinkers of his generation, Allan Sekula (1951–2013) is known for blending documentary-style photography with essays to create poignant narratives that speak to and critique global social, economic, and political structures. Conceived as both an exhibition and a book, “Fish Story” is considered one of the most important conceptual photography projects of the 20th century and features 105 photographs, slide projections, and accompanying texts developed over the course of many years. The Walker’s presentation of “Fish Story” marks the first time that the work will be presented in the U.S. in its entirety since its institutional debut tour in 1999. An evocative reflection on capitalism, labor, international politics, climate change, and our connections to water, “Fish Story” remains as relevant today as when Sekula first created it. The presentation will remain on view at the Walker through Jan. 21, 2024.
To create “Fish Story,” Sekula spent seven years documenting harbors and port cities around the world. Beginning his journey at the Port of San Pedro in his native Los Angeles, Sekula traveled as far as South Korea, Scotland, and Poland, photographing the workers and communities as well as the built and natural environments that support global shipping. He spent weeks, at times months, in these coastal towns and cities, living and working alongside tradespeople, whose stories and experiences were little discussed and often invisible. Each of the nine chapters in “Fish Story” relates to a different aspect of maritime commerce and emphasizes the dynamics of class and labor within the profit-focused structures of globalized trade. At the same time, the project explores the mystery and aura of the sea, merging documentary style research with the aesthetics of fine art.
“Allan Sekula’s seminal work remains as vital as ever in its encapsulation of the effects of globalized trade and shipping on individuals, communities, and the natural world, which have only become heightened in recent years. His work feels incredibly prescient and poetic within our contemporary contexts,” said William Hernández Luege, Curatorial Assistant of Visual Arts at the Walker. “The Walker acquired ‘Fish Story’ in 2013 as part of our mission to support and amplify groundbreaking artistic approaches and what they can mean to our communities. We are looking forward to sharing this incredible work with our audiences and to fostering new conversations about Sekula’s work and the many topical themes and ideas with which it engages.”
The presentation of “Fish Story” will also include a reading room featuring a selection of Sekula’s published works and inviting lounge seating, to encourage further connection with his work and understanding of his practice. The Walker is currently engaging with a wide range of schools throughout Minneapolis to support the use of the reading room by classes and students in the area. The exhibition will also be accompanied by a robust series of programs and lectures.