A History of Photography

March 12–July 3, 2016, History of Photography Gallery

  • Thumbnail Image: 

    Unidentified maker. Harriet Tubman at home and her friends. Residents of the Home for the Aged and Indigent Negroes. Auburn, N.Y., 1887. Albumen silver print. George Eastman Museum, gift of Donald K. Weber.

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 approximately three times a year, continually refreshing the experience of visiting the Eastman Museum and offering regular opportunities to display the museum’s treasures.

This rotation was curated by ​Jamie M. Allen, associate curator in the Department of Photography. The photographs in this exhibition—made by known and unknown white and black men and women—serve as a means of exploring black history and culture. Some depict individuals who were instrumental in shaping American culture, society, and politics. Many illustrate our history and have become ingrained in our understanding of the past. Others are a form of creative expression for artists who draw upon a lineage of images, using what has become an everyday medium, to interpret experiences—both personal and collective. Overall, these photographs serve as markers of time that allow us to reflect on history and culture, illuminating moments in our past and present.

An expanded version of this exhibition is available online through Google Cultural Institute. Visit g.co/blackhistory to view the Eastman Museum’s exhibition as well as exhibitions and collection objects from more than forty other cultural institutions.


Related Events

Saturday, March 12, 2016, 12 p.m.

Talks | Jamie M. Allen: A Photographic History of African American History and Culture

 Jamie M. Allen, associate curator in the Department of Photography, will discuss themes presented in the most recent installation in the History of Photography gallery. 

read more

Monday, April 18, 2016, 6:30 p.m.

Special Events | Rediscovering Frederick Douglass

Organized in collaboration with the City of Rochester, this free event includes a screening of Rediscovering Frederick Douglass, a new film about how a previously undocumented photograph of Frederick Douglass was rediscovered; a post-screening discussion with museum curators; access to the exhibition A History of Photography: Exploring Black History and Culture; and more.

read more