Selections from the Photography Collection
Drawn from the collection, this installation presented 160 years of photographic history and included several recent and significant gifts. The earliest works on view were two portraits from the 1840s by the pioneering Scottish duo, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, which were some of the first paper photographic prints made from negatives. Throughout the 19th century, the nascent medium grew to include still life, documentary travel and landscape subjects, represented here in works by Peter Henry Emerson, Adolphe Braun and Ferdinand Finsterlin.
In the first half of the 20th century, photography underwent a radical transformation as artists embraced more modern approaches to the medium. Portraiture remained important, as seen in Ansel Adams’s informal double portrait of the artist Georgia O’Keeffe and Orville Cox, as well as in the keepsake photos of everyday people by small-town Arkansas photographer, Mike Disfarmer. Beginning in the 1940s, innovative practitioners such as Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind undertook photographic experiments with abstraction, concurrent with those in painting, while documentarians, such as French photographer Robert Doisneau, used the camera to capture candid scenes of urban street life.
Urban Life Depicted
The documentary nature of photography has continued to be essential to the medium and several examples of country and city life from the 1960s are included here. The grand architecture of Prague is recorded in the diminutive postcard panoramas by Czech photographer Josef Sudek, taken with a specialized wide-angle camera. Intimate portraits of an itinerant Irish child by Alen MacWeeney and an African immigrant garment worker in New York City by Louis Draper document a human dimension to rural and urban life. Contemporary landscape photographers remain engaged with the genre and pursue varied approaches, from a moody city view by Ruth Orkin, to the near abstractions by Brett Weston and April Gornik, and the infinitely subtle and serial seascapes by the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto.
This exhibition was curated by Marshall N. Price, Nancy Hanks Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.