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Selections from the Collection

April 2–October 3, 2021, Collection Gallery

Today it is easy to assume that playing with and in front of the camera is something new, but play has been captured in pictures as long as photography has existed. Since the nineteenth century, photographs have depicted people enjoying themselves—playing with dolls or a game of chess, riding bicycles, frolicking on the beach.

This rotation of photographs from the museum’s collection demonstrates that play is as essential a theme in the medium’s history as it is in our lives. The selection includes works by Clarence H. White (American, 1871–1925) and Evan Baden (American, b. Saudi Arabia, b. 1985) that illustrate the impact of technology on gaming, photographs by Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009) and Terry Evans (American, b. 1944) that portray pastimes in urban and rural environments, and pictures by Gordon Parks (American, 1912–2006) and Aaron Siskind (American, 1903–1991) that present scenes inside places dedicated to diversion.

The introduction of snapshot cameras intended for amateurs in the 1880s encouraged a more playful approach to photography than the formality of professional photography studios typically allowed. Through different time periods and types of play, photography continues to capture happy memories to be revisited later and enjoyed all over again.

Generously sponsored by St. John’s.

About the Collection 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 Collection 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.