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History of Photography

July 14–October 18, 2020, History of Photography Gallery

This selection of photographs commemorates the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Passed by Congress in 1919 and ratified on August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment granted American women the right to vote (though many women continued to be prevented from exercising that right). This installation examines how photography has portrayed, and fundamentally shaped, perceptions of women and feminist movements since the mid-1800s. 

The selection of works on view includes portraits of suffragist Susan B. Anthony and abolitionist Sojourner Truth, documents related to Civil Rights Era feminists Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem, and artworks by Julia Margaret Cameron and Carrie Mae Weems. Since its invention, photography has played an instrumental role in picturing women around the world as they fight for their basic human rights. A broad array of objects—from tintypes and card-mounted photographs to ID badges and images by celebrated photojournalists Margaret Bourke-White and Mary Ellen Mark—showcases the diversity of the George Eastman Museum’s photography collection. 

This rotation in the History of Photography Gallery was curated by Lisa Hostetler, curator in charge, Department of Photography; Jamie M. Allen, Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Associate Curator; and master’s students in the Photographic Preservation and Collections Management program Rebecca Gourevitch, Forrest Soper, Maya Swann Vitale, and Xiaochun Wang.

About the History of Photography Gallery

The George Eastman Museum photography collection is among the best and most comprehensive in the world. With holdings that include objects ranging in date from the announcement of the medium’s invention in 1839 to the present day, the collection represents the full history of photography. Works by renowned masters of the medium exist side-by-side with vernacular and scientific photographs. The collection also includes all applications of the medium, from artistic pursuit to commercial enterprise and from amateur pastime to documentary record, as well as all types of photographic processes, from daguerreotypes to digital prints.

The museum's History of Photography Gallery is dedicated to rotating installations that demonstrate photography’s historical trajectory through photographs and cameras drawn from the collection. The selection of photographs changes twice a year, and each rotation offers new opportunities to engage with the museum's treasures.

For videos and a glossary of the photographic processes, visit eastman.org/processglossary.