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.