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Departure and Arrival is an exhibition by the photographer Charles Harbutt. The exhibition features a set of photo prints that were captured by Harbutt during his travels. The images have been captured in black and white. The photographer has used this due to the versatility of monochrome images. They can be used for portraits, landscapes and urban landscapes, hence unifying the underlying theme in all of the works. Similarly, this effect aids in developing meaning in his expressions of departure and arrival. From my understanding, the word ‘Departures’ in the title seeks to describe his approach towards photography in general. Most of the images were captured during his daily wanderings. He does not maintain consistent subject matter, and ‘departures’ highlights his wanderings between different issues through his travels and changes in life. The word ‘Arrival’ in the title serves to develop a full circle to his work. It highlights that the often varied subject matter has been unified through a common understanding. It identifies that his pictures have finally developed a transformation that reflects on who Harbutt is and what he feels.

Palazzo del Arte, Milan, is a 1970 photo by Charles Harbutt. The image features a set of men standing on a flight of stairs. However, they are standing in a curve, facing one another. One person appears to stand out. The group shows a sense of nonchalance for the outsider. This correlates to Harbutt’s presentation of his works, where he highlights indifference to the subject matter. The photograph represents his exhibition in a curious light. It presents an in-between Harbutt’s Departure and Arrival. In the image, the men are neither departing nor arriving. This is seen through their respective stances, where no relative motion is perceptible. However, the stairs serve as a symbol of either departing or arriving. It is my belief that the image, therefore, serves to highlight Harbutt being stuck on what his identity comprises (Harbutt, n.d).

Man in Bistro, Paris is a 1975 photo by Charles Harbutt. It features a seated person, waiting to be served by a waitress as he reads a periodical. The meal may be understood as a motif for Harbutt’s understanding of his self. The image is also monochromatic, characterized by sound tones that increase detail. The photo serves to highlight a variety in the show. It portrays Harbutt’s travels through the depiction of a bistro in Paris. This also serves to improve the notion of ‘departure’ in the exhibition through the display of choice. Similarly, the image develops the theme of choice in his exhibition. From the mirror image, it is seen that the waitress is querying the man. The image develops arrival through the presentation of the meal to the individual, which serves as a realization of what he thinks and desires in his work (Harbutt, n.d).

Departure and arrival plays a central role in the exhibition. Departure signifies Harbutt’s often unconcerned approach towards his work. He often departs from various themes in his work, since he has not developed a full understanding of his thoughts and character. For example, he does not feel complete with journalistic photography. As a result, he ventures into fine art in his work. The title also identifies his extensive travels in the process of building his understanding. Harbutt’s sense of departure is seen through all of his works. For example, Man in the Bistro and Palazo del Artre serve different thematic concerns. In the exhibition, arrival signifies the advent or understanding of Harbutt’s thoughts and ideals. Arrival is signified through realization of his completeness through fine art in photography. This understanding is what makes him more successful in fine art than in his journalistic work. This is attributable to his newfound passion that spurs him to explore his personality and views. The exhibition, therefore, serves as a presentation for the views that Harbutt has discovered and incorporated into his own, through his travels.



Harbutt, C. (n.d). Departures and Arrivals. [image online] Available at: [Accessed: 18 Nov 2013].


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