Photographs come out of the vaults and into the galleries, telling stories by Ansel Adams, Harold Edgerton, Edward Steichen, Julie Margaret Cameron, Garry Winogrand, Joel-Peter Witkin
Rochester, N.Y., April 17, 2012—Experience rarely seen and lesser-known photographs by the masters at George Eastman House with the exhibition See: Untold Stories, on view now through Sept. 16, 2012. In response to visitors who have long asked to see more of the museum’s unparalleled collection – and as with most museums, the galleries can only showcase the tip of the iceberg – Eastman House has assembled a wide survey of photography from the earliest efforts in the 19th century to the most recent techniques and aesthetics.
“Behind the heavy doors of the Eastman House vaults lie millions of photographs, films, rare books, and cameras,” said Dr. Alison Nordström, Eastman House senior curator of photographs and director of exhibitions. “Curators and archivists enter these spaces daily — boxes are opened, unique objects are photographed, studied and cared for — but only a small number of these objects ever come above ground for public display. Untold Stories lets us open boxes that have literally been closed for decades, or have just been acquired, and share a larger selection of our remarkable holdings.”
Examples of lesser-known photographs featured in Untold Stories? You may know the Harold Edgerton famous image of a bullet passing through an apple, but have you seen his photograph of a bullet passing through a banana? And you may have seen Ansel Adams’ “Half Dome, Moonrise, Yosemite Valley” but have you seen his “Noon Clouds, Glacier Park, Montana”?
The collection material is presented in the way the artists intended their work be seen, in groups, sets and portfolios. Featured in Untold Stories is a selection of prints from Ansel Adams’s first portfolios; proof prints by Edward Steichen with handwritten instructions for magazine reproduction; intimate images of Marilyn Monroe by Philippe Halsman; a selection of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes donated to the museum by distinguished collector Donald Weber; the original 1876-1877 woodburytypes of John Thomson’s Street Life in London; a personal photo album from Julia Margaret Cameron; dye-transfer prints by stop-action photo pioneer Harold Edgerton; “Roll, Jordon, Roll” by Doris Ulmann made in the Sea Islands of Georgia in the early 1930s; Victor Keppler’s advertising images that include Lucille Ball selling bottled beer; Garry Winogrand’s “Women are Beautiful” series; Neil Winokur’s “A to Z” portfolio; and commercial work created for New York Times Magazine by Joel-Peter Witkin.
Eastman House’s collection of photographs of a half-million items represents every major process from 10,000 photographers. In addition to celebrated photographic art, the collection holds important examples of the photograph’s role is shaping and defining our culture including photojournalism, propaganda, advertising, family snapshots, and postcards. The collection at Eastman House is one of the largest museum collections of photographs in the world, yet the scale of these holdings means only a small percentage ever comes above ground for public display.
“Despite the importance of our archive as a whole, our audience has been exposed to only a few of our images and they are often already well-known,” said Dr. Alison Nordström, Eastman House senior curator of photographs and director of exhibitions. “Untold Stories lets us open boxes that have literally been closed for decades and share a larger selection of our remarkable holdings.”
The Eastman House motion picture collection is represented in Untold Stories with the display “Ballyhoo: The Art of Selling the Movies.” Featured is an array of pressbook images from the 1920s and 1930s that served as suggestions to theater owners for local advertising and elaborate lobby displays for promoting individual films. Today these images are seen as exploitation propaganda conjured by studio publicity departments.
An extensive study of the work of noted Pictorialist Frederick Evans, titled “Ideal Forms,” is also part of Untold Stories. Curated by Alana West, Eastman House’s 2010 Tanenbaum Fellow, this display is on view through June 17, 2012.
Augmenting the photographic displays is a series of videos, most featuring Eastman House process historian Mark Osterman demonstrating important photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries. A timeline placing the history of photography in the context of world events adds further interpretation to the exhibition, as does a hands-on cabinet of curiosities, which allows visitors to see up-close a variety of photographic processes.
Interpretive text throughout the exhibition was created by curatorial staff in the Department of Photographs and graduate students in the museum’s Master of Arts program in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management.
“This widely varied selection of mini-exhibition will appeal to every taste and interest,” Nordström said. “We invite our audiences to experience the stories the artists have chosen to tell us, but also to find your own stories in them.”
See: Untold Stories is generously supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Stephen and Janice Ashley. Additional support is provided by Hammer Packaging, Hanging Around Frame & Art, and Ruth E. Baltzer.
See: Untold Stories is included with museum admission. For more information visit eastmanhouse.org or call (585) 271-3361 ext. 213.
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