Senior Curator, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Maria Morris Hambourg
was curator in charge of the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
from its inception in 1992 until 2004 and continues to consult to the museum. Her leadership brought international attention to The Met's photographic collection and enriched its holdings in 19th and 20th century works. By establishing a strong and supportive Visiting Committee of eminent collectors and scholars, Hambourg ushered in an authoritative curated exhibition program including The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection
(1994-95); Hiroshi Sugimoto
(1995-96); Paul Strand, Circa 1916
(1998); Earthly Bodies: Irving Penn's Nudes, 1949-50
(2002); and Richard Avedon: Portraits
Independent curator, writer and editor. Richardson served as Deputy Director for Art and Curator of modern painting and sculpture at the Baltimore Museum of Art
from 1975 to 1998. She curated many acclaimed shows including, Frank Stella: The Black Paintings
(1976), the first ever retrospective of Gilbert & George (1984) and Anne Truitt: A Life in Art
(1992). She has published consistently with focus on contemporary American artists - Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Brice Marden, Sol LeWitt, John Waters, Barnett Newman, Bruce Nauman and Ellsworth Kelly. Richardson acted as a consultant on The Cone Sisters
, a BBC documentary (2002). She was also co-editor of A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum
Peter Bunnell is a former McAlpin professor of the history of photography and modern art at Princeton University, the nation's first endowed professorship of the history of photography. During his 30 years at Princeton, he mentored a number of students, several of whom became respected curators at museums and galleries around the world, including Doug Nickel
(Center for Creative Photography
) and Malcolm Daniel (the Metropolitan Museum of Art [www.metmuseum.org]). Bunnell also served as the faculty curator of photography and was responsible for the Minor White Archive
and the Clarence H. White Collection
Originally a painter, French photographer Édouard Baldus
took up photography in 1848 and never looked back. He was a member of Société Héliographique and worked for Mission Héliographique
, for which he created clear, vivid images of aging French architectural monuments using special waxed paper negatives that he had patented. That work eventually garnered him government support for a new project, Les Villes de France photographiées, a series of architectural images taken in Paris and the provinces. Baldus also documented the Louvre
's reconstruction in the 1850s, producing 2,000 negatives. In July 1861, the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM) Railroad commissioned Baldus to produce an album of photographs of the rail constructions
. In 1994, The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a traveling exhibit on Baldus titled The Photographs of Édouard Baldus: Landscapes and Monuments
A French painter-turned-photographer, Gustave Le Gray
practiced daguerreotype and calotype photography. A master of photographic technique, he pioneered the paper negative and gave lessons to many emerging photographers including Maxime Du Camp and Léon de Laborde. Le Gray was one of just five photographers selected for Mission Héliographique
, a government-sponsored project to document France’s aging architecture to determine where restoration was most needed. He ultimately made over 600 negatives as part of that project.
This photographer's movement formed in 1902 with the intent of forcing the art world to recognize photography "as a distinctive medium of individual expression." Alfred Stieglitz
led the group which also included Edward Steichen, Gertrude Kasebier, Clarence White, and Alvin Langdon Coburn. Photo-Secession held its own exhibitions and published Camera Work
, a meticulous and quality journal. The Photo-Secessionists used the pictorial style
, arguing that art photography needed to emulate the painting and etching of the time. Photo-Secessionists valued purity and objectivity, practicing straight photography. Images were black and white or sepia-toned, and were not manipulated in the darkroom, aside from cropping.
One of the most influential figures in early 20th-century art and culture, Alfred Stieglitz
founded an elite, avant-garde group of photographers called the Photo-Secession, who worked to have photography accepted as a fine art. Fascinated by the relationship between photography and the other arts, Stieglitz ran a gallery called Photo-Secession Gallery, known as the "29l
," supporting modern artists like Cezanne and Picasso. He also produced the renowned photographic magazine Camera Work
. His own photography included interesting images of the streets of New York, often taken in poor light and weather. He also made portraits of his second wife, the painter Georgia O'Keeffe
Waddell is a graduate of Yale University (B.A) and the Harvard School of Business (M.B.A.). He is Vice Chairman of the Board at Arrow Electronics, previously serving as Director, Executive Vice-President, CEO and Chairman. Waddell is currently a member of the Committee on Architecture and Design of The Museum of Modern Art
and the Committee on Photographs of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. In 1987, Waddell’s personal photograph collection was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum thanks to a $2M gift by Ford Motor Co. Known as the Ford Motor Company Collection, it comprises 500 works of European and American photography made between the two World Wars. In the collection, Abbott
, Evans, Kertesz
, Man Ray
, Strand to name a few, document the urban, industrial and psychological revolutions of the modern era.
Comprising more than 8,500 photographs including important works of early British, French, and American photography and masterpieces from the early 20th century, the Gilman Paper Company Collection
is widely considered the finest private photography collection ever assembled. It includes rare photographs by Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, Édouard Baldus, Nadar, and Eugène Atget, among other treasures. The collection was built by Howard Gilman
, chairman of the paper company, with the help of his curator Pierre Apraxine beginning in 1977. It was acquired
from the Howard Gilman Foundation by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005.
is a process for reproducing a photograph in large editions. It uses gelatin to transfer the image from a black and white negative to a copper printing plate. The gelatin carries the image because it hardens in proportion to its exposure to light. Areas of the gelatin not exposed stay soft and can be dissolved away in water. What remains is a gelatin version of the image which is then pressed onto a copper plate. The plate is placed in an acid bath. Where the gelatin is thick, the acid eats the metal away slowly, where the gelatin is thin or absent, the acid eats faster. Thus the plate is etched to different depths according to the tones of the original image. When inked for printing, the varying depths hold different amounts of ink. Malcolm Daniel penned this paper about the Early Photogravure in 19th century France
British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron
began taking photos merely to pass the time while her husband was away but quickly showed true talent as a portrait photographer. She ran in lofty circles, and her male subjects - Robert Browning
, Charles Darwin
, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
, Alfred Tennyson
- were some of the great intellectuals and artists of the day. She usually shot against a dark background, draping her models' bodies in dark cloth and carefully lighting them from one side, to dramatic effect. Though Cameron also photographed female celebrities, she tended to select them for their beauty rather than their accomplishments.
Self-taught photographer Lewis Wickes Hine
started his career as an instructor in nature studies and the official photographer for the Ethical Culture School
in New York. A trained sociologist, he ultimately turned his lens to social ills such as child labor. Hine added captions detailing the childrens' ages, working conditions, and wages. While he eventually took on other projects – photographing construction of the Empire State Building
, for example – he remains best known for his child labor photos.
A Danish immigrant to the United States, Jacob Riis
began his career as a court reporter for the New York Tribune and Evening Sun before taking up photography to expose the unhealthful living conditions of the poor, particularly immigrants. He did much of his work at night and used an open flash, sometimes inadvertently setting fire to the places he was photographing. His images of the squalor of New York's Lower East Side were published in How the Other Half Lives
in 1890, which helped push through legislation that eventually improved the conditions he had so eloquently captured on film.
This early photographic process, which used paper coated with silver iodide, was discovered by William Henry Fox Talbot
in 1840 by accident, but it revolutionized photography. Because the highly-sensitive paper allowed for dramatically reduced exposure times, living subjects could now be photographed. And because it was a negative-positive process, many copies of an image could be made. The calotype-also called the Talbotype-initially produced low-quality images and was used mostly by amateurs. Eventually, however, the process was improved and gained wider popularity.
Roger Taylor is Professor of Photographic History at De Montfort University, Leicester; and formerly Senior Curator of Photographs and Head of Research Development for the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford. Roger Taylor was the recipient of the Lisette Model/Joseph G. Blum Fellowship in the History of Photography at the National Gallery of Canada (1998).
In 2007, he guest-curated Impressed By Light, an exhibition for the Metropolitan Museum in New York. He also co-authored the catalogue which featured "a groundbreaking examination of the artistic, social, and economic context of the British calotype." He is a leading authority on British Victorian Photography and the calotype process.
Taylor is the author of numerous books and journal articles, including Lewis Carroll Photographer: The Princeton Albums. Taylor's landmark project was Photographs Exhibited in Britain, 1839-1865, for which he published a book and developed a website database of over 20,000 photographic exhibits drawn from forty exhibition catalogues published between 1839-1865. It is the richest resource for material of that time.
The term "gentleman-amateur" refers to a Victorian era, upper-class male academically invested (and in some cases defining) emergent niches of science. Gentleman-amateur interests varied and included astronomy, chemistry, optics, and photography. By virtue of educational and social privilege, the gentleman-amateur of the 19th century was equipped to carry forth experiments in his chosen field and thus credited with many early discoveries. The gentlemen-amateur is associated with a pioneering spirit later ceded to larger institutions and academies, and is now a figure of nostalgia.
Colonel Alfred Capel-Cure, who flourished in the late 19th century, was most known for his photographs of medieval castles, monasteries, and churches that had been abandoned and were falling into ruin. Many of his photographs are of buildings that he owned or buildings that an educated man of romantic tastes would have sought out on his travels. Capel-Cure was one of many gentleman-amateurs who photographed Tintern Abbey, for example. Other subjects include informal portraits and romantic genre subjects.
In detail, tonal range, and translation of color into black and white, Capel-Cure's work is greatly inferior to comparable pictures produced by modern processes, but it is precisely their sepia tones, soft outlines, and romantic mood that define them as pioneering and historically critical. Most of Capel-Cure's pictures were made by the calotype process, a process using paper negatives, which was already technically obsolete when he began using it in 1852.
Benjamin Brecknell Turner
was a pioneer in photography using Talbot's calotype process starting in 1849. He is best known for his photographs of the English countryside. Beginning in 1852 he used the paper negative in combination with albumen positives on a large scale and used classical compositions to examine building types and rustic life. In 1854, he photographed the transfer of the Crystal Palace
from central London to Sydenham Hill-important because of its subject matter and technical ambition. His work was shown at the Society of Arts and at the International Exhibition, both in London. He was a founding member of the London Photographic Society in 1854 and was also honorary secretary of the Photographic Exchange club
An investment businessman at Goldman Sachs (where his father was a partner), Paul Sachs
was persuaded in 1914 to leave the profession to become assistant curator to Edward Forbes, his old Harvard classmate and the new director of the Fogg Art Museum
. Together, Forbes and Sachs formed a team of fundraising, teaching, and museum development staff that set the standard for academic museum direction. In 1922, Sachs created the celebrated course in curatorship for Harvard graduate students, Museum Work and Museum Problems, and developed a program of museum education, developing what he termed the "connoisseur-scholar." One aspect included what was commonly called "the Print Course," a seminar-style analysis of prints and drawings drawn largely from Sachs' personal collection. Harvard
awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1942. In 1945, Sachs and Forbes (the "mendicant Siamese twins") retired from the museum.
Originally an attorney, William Ivins
gave up practicing law when he was invited in 1916 to take charge of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's small collection of prints. In accepting, he became curator and founder of the museum's Prints Department and ultimately built the collection from its humble beginnings into one of the most impressive print holdings of any museum in the country. His Notes on Prints
, published in 1930, became a respected guide for the modern study of prints. In 1932, he hired Hyatt Mayor
-who was unknown at the time-to be his assistant curator and gently shaped him. Ivins eventually worked his way up the ranks to become director of the museum.
One of the most gifted artists of the 20th century, Georgia O’Keeffe
is most often associated with her stunning oil paintings of nature, particularly her close-up, erotic flower paintings and New Mexico landscapes and still lifes. O’Keeffe’s career got a boost when she met photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz
, who became an ardent promoter of her work and eventually her husband. The two remained together for 20 years, during which time Stieglitz took many photographic portraits of O’Keeffe.
An American photographer who gained recognition for his innovative advertising work, Paul Outerbridge
is known for his early experiments with color photography. He used the cabro-color process to meticulously control the hues of his photographs, for example. Outerbridge contributed regularly to Vogue
, Vanity Fair
, Harper's Bazaar
, and other magazines. After 1930, he focused primarily on creating a series of erotic, fetishistic female nudes.
One of the most important artistic figures of his time, Edward Steichen
was originally a painter who burst onto the international photography scene by creating romantic pictorialist images. His pioneering work-which involved manipulating images and working creatively with filters-helped establish photography as a fine art. After Alfred Stieglitz
bought some of his prints, the two became friends and Stieglitz promoted Steichen's work in his publication Camera Work
. Steichen joined the advertising industry in 1923. He was instrumental in boosting the number of advertisements that used photography from 15 percent to 80 percent in just a decade. In 1947, Steichen became the director of photography for The Museum of Modern Art
, where he organized The Family of Man
in 1955, an exhibition of 503 photos that examined the universal themes of life, love, children, and death in 68 countries.
A photographer and filmmaker, Paul Strand
helped pioneer the modernist movement in photography. While he made soft-focus images early in his career, a visit to Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Art Gallery
, which featured the work of forward-thinking photographers and artists, caused him to alter his path. Inspired by the Cubist principles of Picasso
in particular, Strand shifted to more abstract compositions including a study of cups, bowls, and fruit, and another of chair and porch rails. Stieglitz eventually promoted Strand's work in both his gallery and his publication Camera Work
. In his later years, Strand traveled throughout Europe and Ghana, making several photography books.
Best known for her mother-and-child photographs, American photographer Gertrude Käsebier
gained notoriety after serving as a judge at the 1899 Philadelphia Photographic Salon, a role that dramatically jumpstarted business at her New York portrait studio. Although she was primarily a commercial photographer, Alfred Stieglitz devoted his first issue of Camera Work
to her in 1903. Käsebier is less known for her Native American portraits, which captured her subjects' individual personalities and avoided presenting stereotypical images.
A pictorialist photographer whose images alluded to classical antiquity, F. Holland Day
is probably best known for his photographic recreation of the Crucifixion
in 250 negatives, for which he himself posed as Christ. The series was lauded by some and criticized as sacrilegious by others. His other important works were series of male nudes, some with a homoerotic flavor, which also stirred up controversy.
Best known as a painter, Charles Sheeler
took up photography primarily to earn a living. His sharply-focused urban and industrial photographs feature hard, flat, almost abstract forms and are devoid of any sign of life or motion. He coined the term "Precisionism"
to describe his style, which influenced many photographers to follow. In 1920, he and fellow photographer Paul Strand
made a short experimental film called Manhattan
, which became one of the first American art films.
was the art curator of prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1946 until 1966, succeeding William Ivins
and building on Ivins' important acquisitions of the first half of the century. Museum staff characterized Mayor's tenure as one of "filling in the valleys between Ivins' mountain-top masterworks." Mayor purchased less sought-after pieces from respected print collections of artists whose later reputations would validate his critical judgment. He broadened the collection to include all aspects of printing including wine labels, a fine collection of cigarette cards, and advertising print. Despite his footing in the art historical tradition, Mayor conceived of prints, ironically for a museum curator, as popular forms of communication. Prints and People: A Social History of Printed Pictures
(1952) positioned graphics within the context of social communication. Mayor studied at Princeton Christ Church College, Oxford University (as a Rhodes Scholar) and the American School of Classical Studies. He taught art history at Vassar College and theatre at the School of the American Laboratory Theatre, both in New York, and contributed to the literary magazine Hound and Horn
A leading fashion photographer, Richard Avedon
revamped the genre by capturing his models’ personalities on film to create arresting, theatrical images. Discovered by Alexey Brodovitch
at Harper’s Bazaar when he was just 22, Avedon worked for the magazine for 20 years, while also contributing to Life, Look, and other publications. In 1965 he joined Vogue, where he developed his signature style, shooting his subjects against a stark white backdrop. He produced several books, including Observations (celebrity portraits and images of Italian street life, with an essay by Truman Capote
) and Nothing Personal (celebrity portraits and photographs of the mentally ill and prisoners). His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution
, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
, and the Whitney Museum of American Art
A documentary photographer best known for her intriguing images of people living on the fringes of society-carnival sideshow performers, nudists, religious zealots-Diane Arbus
(pronounced Dee-ANN) got to know many of her subjects and felt true affection for them. Curator John Szarkowski
recognized Arbus' unique talent and gave her two shows at The Museum of Modern Art
, in 1965 and 1967, further boosting her notoriety. In 1971, she became the first photographer to be included in the Venice Biennale
, a renowned art exhibition dating back to 1895.
Born in Winnipeg, Phyliss Lambert
is a distinguished academic and philanthropist. Working with architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
, she was influential in his two most successful skyscraper projects, the Seagram Building
and the Toronto-Dominion Centre
. In 1974, she began to form a vast photographic collection, which later became the basis of the photographic collection at the Canadian Centre for Architecture
(CCA) in Montreal, a renowned international museum and research center that Lambert founded in 1979. Comprising over 50,000 images and spanning the entire history of photography, it is one of the most outstanding photographic collections in the world. Subsequently, Lambert established a field of discourse that considered the relationships between photography and architecture, landscape and image, the city and its representation. As Director of the CCA, Lambert pioneered groundbreaking exhibitions beginning with Photography and Architecture: 1839-1939
, described as an urbane, visionary scholar, began collecting photography in 1973, before there was a recognized market for the medium, and amassed a vast collection. Educated at Yale and New York University's Institute of Fine Arts-where he studied Renaissance art-he was a curator at both the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
and the Detroit Institute of Arts
. Beginning in the early '70s, he was also a mentor, career-impresario, and partner of Robert Mapplethorpe
. In 1984, his photography collection was sold to The Getty for $5 million.
An important documentary photographer whose career spanned 50 years, Walker Evans
captured scores of iconic images—a rural whiteboard church, the wife of a sharecropper, and other scenes from the Great Depression—that are etched into the American psyche. His work was championed by The Museum of Modern Art
in New York. He taught graphic arts at Yale University in the 1960s, influencing many students, and he was a talented writer of poems, fiction, criticism, and essays (in English and in French). His photography is widely collected by top museums and private collectors. Evans’ archive was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the most influential photographers of the mid-19th century, British photographer Roger Fenton
studied art in both Paris and London before taking up a camera. While many of his contemporaries settled into a particular genre, Fenton's work ran the gamut-from portraiture to documentary sequences, from architectural studies to complex still lifes. He was commercially successful and many of his photographs are now iconic, such as his haunting Crimean War photo Valley of the Shadow of Death
A French artist who had a well-rounded career that included drawing, sculpture, and printmaking, Edgar Degas
is best known for his painting. He is considered one of the founders of Impressionism
(although he objected to the name), a style that features prominent brush strokes and muted details. While he painted some landscapes, he was much more interested in portraits and portrayed human gestures, poses, and facial expressions in a way that might cause the viewer to wonder about the subjects. Although he painted different types of people-milliners, opera performers, laundresses-he became famous for his many images of ballet dancers
New-York based conceptual installation artist David Hammons'
career has been a slow meander that willfully avoids the illuminati of the art world. Influenced by Dada
, he repeatedly blurs the distinction between art and life. He values a walk
more than a three-month exhibition, explaining, "Doing things in the street is more powerful than art, I think. Like Malcolm X said, '[Art] is like novocaine. It used to wake you up, but now it puts you to sleep.'" His staunchly evasive approach has ultimately established his notoriety. Hammons has exhibited at The Fabric Workshop and Museum
, Philadelphia; Galerie Hauser & Wirth
, Zurich; Ace Gallery
, New York; White Cube
, London; Gallery Shimada, Yamaguchi, Japan; and the Museo Reina Maria Sofia, Madrid.
A Berkeley-based artist, Lutz Bacher
has consistently challenged mainstream notions of gender, sexuality, violence, and power. While predominantly a video artist, he has successfully used multimedia, incorporating found objects, televised court footage, cropped celebrity TV stock, and other debris of modern culture. Bacher's manipulation of image and identity has drawn comparisons with Cindy Sherman
, and his audio-visual juxtapositions are on occasion as piercing as Barbara Kruger's slogans
. Bacher has exhibited internationally, with shows at the Whitney Biennial, White Columns in New York, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zurich.
An American-Israeli who plays with the cinematic medium, Omer Fast
uses subject matter that ranges from reconfigurations of Hollywood icons and accepted film formula, to political and personal "refractions" of visual and oral history, to testimony and memory. Fast toys with the documentary genre-surely an abomination-but his playfulness is consistent, referencing mass distributed films and audiences' passive absorption into cinematic content. Simultaneously a devoted practitioner and an uber-critic of the moving image, he has gained appreciation across the Western world. His work has been exhibited at George Eastman House
, Rochester; Cornerhouse
, Manchester; Copenhagen Center for Contemporary Art
, Basel; and the Carnegie Museum of Art
is known for her video works that feature children in troubling adult situations. She uses digital techniques to create psychologically charged works that question the viewers' preconceived notions of social norms, behaviors, and cause. Her works are a public dissection of her personal inquiries of motherhood. She has exhibited at the California College of the Arts
in Oakland, Palais de Tokyo
in Paris, and Centre pour l'Image Contemporaine
in Geneva. Her work has also been included in the group shows Casino 2001
at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst in Ghent, Slow Motion
at the Ludwig Forum in Aachen, Germany and The American Effect
at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Marshall received a B.A. from the Wimbledon School of Art in London, and later studied sculpture at the Chelsea School of Art in London and the École des Beaux-Arts, Geneva.
Since the early 1990s, Wolfgang Staehle
has worked almost exclusively as a collective artist. In 1991, he founded The Thing
, an innovative online forum for artists and cultural workers. In 1996, he began to produce an ongoing series of live online video streams including Empire 24/7, a continuous live Web-broadcasted recording of the top of the Empire State Building. Berlin's Fernsehturm
and the Comburg Monastery
, both in Germany, received similar treatment. Staehle's name reached the mainstream when his month-long installation (Sept. 6- Oct. 6, 2001) at the Postmasters
gallery in New York inadvertently recorded two planes colliding into the World Trade Center
. He continues to serve as executive director of The Thing. Staehle attended the Freie Kunstschule, Stuttgart, and the School of Visual Arts, New York.
was the youngest artist to exhibit at the infamous Sensation show at The Saatchi Gallery
in 1997, an event that established the term "YBAs" (Young British Artists) into art historical canon. Almond, however, has since distinguished himself from the garish shock tactics of his contemporaries by turning to calm sculpture, films, and photographs that reorder traditional notions of place and time. Almond's work draws an acknowledgement of larger unknowns, touching upon ideas of mysticism, hermeticism, and subjective cultural experiences of place. Almond is a Lancastrian, occasionally referencing his family, their emotional position, and personal appreciations of life. He has had solo exhibitions at Tate Britain, Kunsthalle Zurich
in Switzerland, and The Renaissance Society
Contemporary artist Matthew Barney
uses a variety of media-sculptural installations, performance art, drawing, photography, video-to create some of the most innovative works of his generation. While at Yale, he planned to study medicine, an interest that shows up in his artwork, which often explores the human body's workings and limits. Barney is best known for The Cremaster Cycle
, a series of five visually-rich, experimental films that explore male sexuality.
JOne of the most respected figures of his generation, Minor White
focused his lens primarily on the natural world and is often associated with his textural photographs - images of rough bushes, a tree, cracks in a road, or frost crystals on glass. He was also an influential photography teacher, and in 1952 he co-founded the influential magazine Aperture
with a group of fellow photography enthusiasts that included Ansel Adams
, Dorothea Lange
and Beaumont Newhall
. For the last 11 years of his life, White taught at MIT
, where he had tremendous influence on the university's photography department.
John McKendry was curator of prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1966 until 1975. He organized exhibitions of photographs by Paul Strand, Edward Weston, and Man Ray, among others. He was also in charge of The Met's Print Division centenary exhibition in 1970. McKendry is known for his discovery of Robert Mapplethorpe
, and for providing him with his first camera. Mapplethorpe's portrait of McKendry
was made only a day before McKendry's premature death. He has authored numerous books including 1968 Four Victorian Photographs
, Robert Motherwell's a La Pintura: The Genesis of a Book
, Helen Frankenthaler: 62 Painted Book Covers
and Aesop: Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables
. McKendry graduated from the University of Alberta and New York University's Institute of Fine Arts.
Weston Naef has been curator of photographs at The Getty Museum since the establishment of its Photographic Department
in 1984. He has authored over 30 books, with subjects including Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keefe, Eugene Atget, Andre Kertesz, Mary Ellen Mark, Carlton Watkins, Gustave le Gray, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, early Egyptian photography, pioneer photography of Brazil, and photography of the American West. Naef's reverence for photography is summarized by the landmark show in 2004 titled Photographers of Genius
, which exhibited works by the most famous names in photography with unapologetic reverence.
Swiss-born documentary photographer Robert Frank
is best known for his book The Americans
. Funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship
, Frank traversed the U.S. and photographed honest depictions of everyday people. His method contrasted vividly with the sentimental preoccupations of other '50s photographers. While his photographs were hotly criticized, they ultimately inspired an entire generation of photojournalists. Frank became a key figure of the Beat generation (Jack Kerouac
wrote the foreword to his book) and made more than 25 pioneering films and videos.
curator in charge of The Met's Department of Photographs
A respected curator and scholar of photography, Malcolm Daniel has been an integral part of building The Met's collection for over 16 years. As Senior Curator of the Photography Department, Daniel is presently devoting himself to an in-depth exploration of 19th and early 20th century photography. He started his career at the Met working with Maria Morris Hambourg, who brought in important photographic collections. During that time, The Met's photography collection grew into a major force. As Curator in Charge, Daniel continued in Hambourg's tradition in his own right. He worked to expand the museum's Department of Photographs to include exciting works in new media and putting the Department's entire collection on the museum's web site. Daniel talked with PhotoWings about the evolution of The Met's photography collection, his mentorship under the legendary Maria Morris Hambourg, the power of photography, how the museum managed to acquire the some of its most extraordinary collections, and its ever-evolving plans for the future.
Click here to learn about one of the Met’s most important photographic collections: The Diane Arbus Archive. Decades after her death, Arbus continues to be both revered and reviled for her compellingly intimate, and often troubling portraits.
~ The Diane Arbus Archive at the Metropolitan Museum ~
In 2007, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Photographs acquired an extraordinary addition to its respected collection. The archive of Diane Arbus (1923-1971), one of the most recognized and controversial photographers of the late 20th century, is an amazingly complete and well-preserved record of the life, work, methodology and inspirations of a woman who is known as much for her powerful, intimate and often troubling portraits of society’s outsiders, as for her striking and insightful views of everyday people. Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator in Charge of The Met’s Department of Photographs and the motivating force behind this new acquisition remarked that “The Diane Arbus Archive will provide a contextual understanding of Arbus’s stunning achievement with the camera, and simultaneously offer fundamental insight into what it means to be an artist in modern times.”
PhotoWings: I'd like to start off by asking how you happened to become a curator.
Malcolm Daniel: I've always been interested in museums. I grew up in Baltimore. When I went to college, I was both a studio art and art history major and, as time went on, I became less convinced of my own artistic talent. The more great art I saw by other people, the more humble I became about my own, and the more interested in what other people were doing.
After college, I came back to Baltimore and ended up getting a job in the Education department of The Baltimore Museum of Art, running the school tour program. I had a great group of volunteer docents who taught me many things, and whom I was able to teach also. At that time, they did not have a strong photography collection. But I was also very much interested in the 19th century French print collection that they have there, which is a world-class collection. I had been a printmaker in college so I was particularly interested in the graphic arts, and I was interested in contemporary art because they had a great chief curator at the time, Brenda Richardson, who was doing exciting shows that ranged from Frank Stella's black paintings to Mel Bochner, to Gilbert and George, to Bruce Nauman.
Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852–1934) Blessed Art Thou among Women, 1899 Platinum print, 23 x 13.2 cm (9 1/16 x 5 3/16 in.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933 (33.43.132) Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
So after being at the Baltimore Museum for four or five years, I really felt the desire to learn more and ended up going to Princeton. I was very excited by the work I was doing with an art historian named Tom Crow at the time, [former] director of the Getty Research Institute who was at that time writing about 18th century French painting - a brilliant art historian.
But I probably would have been a really third-rate Tom Crow. He was somebody whose knowledge and way of thinking was very much connected to social history. He was able, in a very meaningful way, to tie the art that he was looking at to that knowledge and that perspective. I don't think that came as naturally to me. In the end, when Tom did not get tenure at Princeton and then went on to a brilliant career elsewhere. I had to decide; was I going to follow him to other universities and try to do what he did so well, or was there another path?
Photo History: A Wealth of Discoveries
By that time, I had taken a few seminars in the history of photography with Peter Bunnell who had been at Princeton for a long time and really established Princeton as a place where one could study the history of photography. He held what (may have been) at the time the only endowed chair in history of photography at a university, set up by David McAlpin. And Peter had really built a program and a collection that he could teach from. And one of the things I found so exciting about my work in those seminars was doing primary research. At the time, Peter had acquired for the museum the archives of both Clarence H. White and then Minor White. And Peter had studied with Minor White, and Minor had been a mentor to him, so eventually the collection - all the proof cards and the negatives and prints and writings - these all came to Princeton, so there was this archive there.
One of the things that's so exciting about photographic history [is] that there's so much to discover and to present for the first time to the public ... I remember at the time of the Baldus show, people said, "Who is this guy? How come I've never heard of him?" The pictures were manifestly interesting, beautiful, ambitious, powerful pictures. And yet, the name was completely unknown to even the art-interested public. That's how I got to be a curator.
The excitement of working with primary materials and trying to solve certain problems and being able to go in to find the answers there among the real material, instead of in secondary sources, was really an exciting thing. I realized that there were great artists about whom very little had been written. So at a certain point, I decided that I would stay at Princeton and see if there was a way to combine my interest in 19th century French art with photography. I ended up doing my dissertation on the French photographer of landscape and architecture, Édouard Baldus, about whom there was one article at the time.
In photography, there are artists of absolutely the highest tier about whom little research has been done. That's exciting. It's exciting as a curator, as a researcher, as a writer. Hopefully it's exciting for the public to come in and have that experience.
Roger Fenton (English, 1819–1869) [Rievaulx Abbey, the High Altar], 1854 Albumen silver print from glass negative, 29.5 x 36.7 cm (11 5/8 x 14 7/16 in.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, William T. Hillman Foundation Gift, 2005 (2005.100.275) Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
And for me, it remains one of the things that's so exciting about photographic history, that there's so much there to discover and also to present for the first time to the public and have them feel that same sense of discovery. If you're a graduate student now and you're interested in 19th century France and painting, you could work on a 19thcentury painter who's of the third rank about whom nothing is written, which is a very satisfying way to spend the next half dozen years of your life. Or you can pick somebody who is truly a great painter like Edouard Manet and spend the next five years reading what everybody else has already written. And maybe, if you're smarter than everybody else, you'll have something new thing to say.
In photography, there are artists of absolutely the highest tier about whom little research has been done. We think the person's already been done if there's a catalog on Gustave Le Gray or Édouard Baldus. They're not. There are many great photographers about whom there's a single book or no book. So that's exciting. It's exciting as a curator, as a researcher, as a writer. Hopefully it's exciting for the public to come in and have that experience.
Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820–1884)
Oak Tree and Rocks, Forest of Fontainebleau, 1849–52
Salted paper print from paper negative, 25.2 x 35.7 cm (9 15/16 x 14 1/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 2000 (2000.13)
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
I remember at the time of the Baldus show, people came in and said, "Who is this guy? How come I've never heard of him?" The pictures were manifestly interesting, beautiful, ambitious, powerful pictures. And yet the name was completely unknown to even the art-interested public. That's how I got to be a curator.
Mentored by Maria Morris Hambourg
Malcolm Daniel: So how did I end up being here? As I started to work on my dissertation, I had a fellowship here at The Met for a year, and Maria Morris Hambourg was the photography curator. There was not yet a photography department. She was a photography curator in the Prints and Photographs department, and she was interested in what I was doing. I admired the work that she had done, and so I had this opportunity for the year. And she got to know me and I got to know her. I went off to Paris to do a year's worth of research and, in the course of that year, her assistant left and the position became available, and I stepped into that position as a curatorial assistant 16 years ago and just rose through the curatorial ranks.
Maria Morris Hambourg really built the department. She did important exhibitions. She wrote great catalogs. She was famous for her wonderfully poetic labels, for her impeccable sense of how to mat the pictures, hang the pictures, interpret them, frame them-how to orchestrate that experience. You know, for many years I thought of my job as sort of assisting the master.
PhotoWings: When did you become the head curator?
Malcolm Daniel: I became Curator in Charge a few years ago.
PhotoWings: How did that change come about?
Malcolm Daniel: Well, Maria Morris Hambourg, who came to the museum in 1985, really built the department. She built the collections and built the staff and convinced the director and trustees to establish an independent curatorial department of photographs, which was founded in 1992.
She did important exhibitions. She wrote great catalogs. She was famous for her wonderfully poetic labels, for her impeccable sense of how to mat the pictures, frame the pictures, hang them, interpret them - how to orchestrate that experience. You know, for many years I thought of my job as post-graduate vocational training, sort of assisting the master.
El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890–1941)
Runner in the City, ca. 1926
Gelatin silver print; 13.1 x 12.8 cm (5 3/16 x 5 1/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.47)
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
About seven years ago, she and her husband adopted twins, a boy and a girl, from Vietnam. She took a leave of absence and then came back just part-time. And at that point, I was an associate curator and the administrator of the department, which meant that I took care of a lot of the budgets and the personnel issues and things that weren't actually very fulfilling personally for Maria anyhow. And so she remained the Curator in Charge. Then at a certain point, she felt it was better for her and for the stability of the department if she stepped aside in a consulting curatorial role and I became the head of the department. It was, of course, the director's decision, but it was certainly because of Maria's recommendation that I succeeded her.
[Maria Morris Hambourg has] got an incredibly sharp eye and visual memory. I think she was confident of her knowledge and also confident of her belief in the importance and power of photography to win people over, including our director and our trustees, to make The Met a place that people now look to for photography.
I became the head of the department and she's remained affiliated with the department. She's a research scholar now, so she keeps a tie to the department. And it is certainly my hope that, as time goes on, she'll miss us enough that she will want to do some writing or exhibitions or help us out more with cultivation of collectors or be our eyes and ears out in the galleries and let us know of things she thinks are interesting. I think that we certainly all feel here that much of who we are as curators is owed to Maria's inspiration and knowledge of teaching, that if she's willing to give more, we're willing to take more, [that we] still have things to learn.
PhotoWings: What was it about the force of her personality that she was able to accomplish all of this?
Malcolm Daniel: I think she's got an incredibly sharp eye and visual memory. Brilliant intellect; she writes exceedingly well with a force of personality. I think she was confident of her knowledge and also confident of her belief in the importance and power of photography to win people over, including our director and our trustees, to make The Met a place that people now look to for photography. And [she has] a huge amount of energy.
Lewis Hine (American, 1874–1940)
Icarus, Empire State Building, 1930
Gelatin silver print, 18.7 x 23.7 cm (7 3/8 x 9 5/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.119)
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
How The Met Acquired The Gilman and The Ford Motor Company Collections
PhotoWings: How did Maria Morris Hambourg handle disappointment?
Malcolm Daniel: Well, there weren't a whole lot of disappointments. I think she kept going. For instance, our acquisition of the Gilman Collection, which has happened only very recently. She had that on her mind before she came to The Met in 1985.
She tells the story of her job interview with Philippe de Montebello (Former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Philippe asked her for her frank assessment of The Met's photography collection and she said, "Well, in certain areas like the Photo-Secession, thanks to the gifts of Alfred Stieglitz, The Met is very strong. In other areas, so-so." And he said, "Well, what would you do about it?" And she said, "Well, there are two collections out there that really ought to come to The Met. One is a collection of avant-garde photography between the two World Wars in Europe and America, about 500 pictures put together by a New York collector named John Waddell. And the other is one that's being put together by a man named Howard Gilman and his curator Pierre Apraxine, and it's a brilliant, growing collection of masterpieces from the first 100 years of photography." Maria says that Philippe looked at her and said, "Well, get to work." So she did.
John Waddell's collection was acquired in 1987, known here as The Ford Motor Company Collection because Ford was the major donor that made the purchase gift arrangement for that collection possible. And there was a great show of that on the 150th anniversary of photography in 1989 called The New Vision.
John Waddell will tell you to this day that he has never had an experience like the experience of working with Maria on refining the collection and then putting the exhibition together. I don't think it was hard to convince him that The Met was the place and she was the curator for his collection.
And the Gilman Collection took 20 years to acquire. We did a major exhibition that you may remember called The Waking Dream in 1993. It was the first time that photography was in the special exhibition galleries-the grand, neoclassical galleries at the top of the grand staircase, galleries that are usually reserved for Velasquez and Rembrandt. It was a big thing to have photography in those galleries. It was a show that many people considered the most beautiful show of photography that they've ever seen. It was beautifully designed. The works are just of incomparable beauty. So that was a big thing, and we thought at the time that perhaps Howard Gilman would announce a gift or promise a gift and it didn't happen.
Howard configured in money for a gallery to be built that opened in fall of 1997, devoted exclusively to photography, the Gilman Gallery. We thought that might be a time when a gift would be made, and then he died suddenly at the very beginning of 1998. So then it took us from January of 1998 until February of 2005 in negotiation with Howard's executors and the board of the Howard Gilman Foundation, which was his principal beneficiary, to work out a purchase gift arrangement to bring the whole collection to The Met. And it was a very painful process, and a huge task of fundraising, and a huge commitment from our trustees and director, and our supporters.
So there were certainly disappointments along the way if Maria hoped to get it in 1993. Dealing with disappointment meant you just said, "Okay, what do we do now in order to accomplish that goal? Let's not give up on the goal but just keep going." But I would say that she managed to do most of the things she wanted to do. There weren't a lot of disappointments on the way. It's been a period of increasing presence for photography at The Met.
PhotoWings: So how did she go about convincing these people? What was her style?
Malcolm Daniel: She already had a relationship with John Waddell and with Pierre Apraxine. She was working at MoMA at the time, so she knew these people and she had a lot of respect for what they were doing, but they had a lot of respect for her too. So that relationship was already forged. And John Waddell will tell you to this day that he has never had an experience like the experience of working with Maria on refining the collection and then putting the exhibition together. I don't think it was hard to convince him that The Met was the place and she was the curator for his collection. There was money to be raised, still. Part of it was a gift from John Waddell, but there was money to be raised and that's where Ford eventually came in. There was a particular person with an interest in photography and the ability to direct corporate philanthropy our way.
Walker Evans (American, 1903–1975)
Penny Picture Display, Savannah, 1936
Gelatin silver print, 24.7 x 19.3 cm (9 3/4 x 7 5/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.482)
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Corporate Donations: Giving the Public Access to Privately Held Art Collections
PhotoWings: So how was Ford able to justify donating money for this collection for the museum? Why was it good for them?
Malcolm Daniel: That's a question for them, but certainly to this day, the collection as a whole - and every picture in it - bears their name. And the show traveled to cities around the country and actually around the world with their name. What made it different was that it was for support of an acquisition rather than an exhibition.
But you can ask the same thing about any corporate sponsorship of an exhibition. What do they get out of it? It's serving the public. It's helping to enrich one of the great art institutions in the world and to make this material that was in a private collection available to the public through exhibition, through our study room, through publication.
Great works of art have the power to move us, whether they're made now or whether they were made 50 years ago, 100 years ago, or 1,000 years ago or more. And so each time we lose something that has that power, we've lost an opportunity to be changed by it.
Preserving Our Photographic Heritage
PhotoWings: Why should people care about saving their photographic heritage?
Malcolm Daniel: I think the question has its answer right in it - it's part of their heritage. From a historical standpoint, there are things to be learned from the past. From the standpoint of a more spiritual aspect or just beauty, great works of art have the power to move us, whether they're made now or whether they were made 50 years ago, 100 years ago, or 1,000 years ago or more. And so each time we lose something that has that power, we've lost an opportunity to be changed by it. I don't think it's inherently different than preserving some other aspect of the past. We lose writings. People throw photographs out in the garbage and you no longer have that sort of family history. I don't know that it's any different than throwing out the diaries and the letters that are part of that family history, too. You know, if you lose it, you lose it.
Click here to learn about The Met's remarkable acquisition: The Diane Arbus Archive. Decades after her death, Arbus continues to be both revered and reviled for her compellingly intimate, and often troubling portraits.
Paul Strand (American, 1890–1976)
Platinum print, 34 x 25.7 cm (13 3/8 x 10 1/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933 (33.43.334)
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Curating: Is Photographic Experience Necessary?
PhotoWings: I'm curious. Are you a photographer as well? And do you think that there's a difference between curators who are photographers and who aren't photographers?
Malcolm Daniel: I'm not a photographer and I never was. In high school, I puttered in the darkroom and I understand the basic process. I'm not a photographer. I do think that I'm a better art historian for having also tried to be an artist in college and I think, for instance, my knowledge of printmaking helps me understand things like photogravure and photolithography and various photomechanical processes more clearly than someone who hasn't done that. And I'm sure that if I had been a photographer and I understood better the optics of various lenses and things like that, I probably would understand pictures in a different way, too. I might understand those choices that a photographer makes.
Jeff Rosenheim comes out of having been a photographer. His background is as a photographer and in American studies. Mine comes really out of art history. So we have different perspectives, and that's complimentary within the department. It's nice to be able to turn to somebody and say, "What's going on here? How does the person do that?" On the other hand, maybe I am able to make some connection to art in another medium that might not be as evident to him. So we work well together.
Educating Our Photo Historians
PhotoWings: Why are there so few places for photographers to study photographic history?
Malcolm Daniel: I just think it's a young discipline. It's only been in recent years that people really thought about the history of photography and it just takes time to develop - for people to be trained and to go back into academia and to train the next generation.
I think, also, the more presence photography has in museums and in the public mind or public interest, the more people are interested in studying its history. There aren't that many places, still. If you want to study the history of photography at the graduate level, there are a handful of places, really.
The Magic of Photography
PhotoWings: Why is it said that a picture is worth a thousand words? And what is unique about the way it informs the viewer?
Malcolm Daniel: It sounds silly to say, but I think photographs actually do have some sort of magical power over most [people]. We may mock people who think that the camera captures the spirit of the person. It's the sort of stereotype of the primitive civilization that thinks that their soul has been captured in the piece of paper, but it has in a way. It doesn't mean it's taken away from the person, but there is something about a photograph - say, a photographic portrait - that is different than a painted portrait, no matter how beautiful.
The painting has the beauty of the brush stroke and the sort of visible expression of the picture maker there. But even the most humble snapshot of somebody you love has a quality that is hard to explain. I think you would be hard-pressed to follow my instructions if I asked you to take out of your pocketbook a picture of someone you love - a child or a wife or husband or parents - and to rip it into little bits, even if you had another copy of it. Would you want to put little pins through the eyes of the picture even if you had another copy of it? No. It's just a piece of paper, but you feel that there's something there despite your dismissal of superstition, and somehow you feel that picture has a quality of the soul there.
There is something about a photographic portrait that is different than a painted portrait, no matter how beautiful. That painting has the beauty of the brush stroke and the visible expression of the picture maker there. But even the most humble snapshot of somebody you love has a quality that is hard to explain.
There's somebody who says, "I would rather have the most humble picture of someone I dearly loved than the finest work of a great master." I think if you have the chance to have one photograph in your life and there was a choice between a photograph of a loved one or a great photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, you would probably pick the one of the person that you love because there's a spiritual connection there, and I think photography has that. It's just in the nature of photography. We know that photography doesn't always tell the truth, but there is a feeling of authenticity and of connection.
PhotoWings: What is it about the essence of photography that has the power to bring about change?
Malcolm Daniel: I don't think that photography is unique in its ability to evoke emotion and cause change. I think that's what this museum is about. I think that's what art is about. I think one can stand in front of a great painting or a classical sculpture or a Chinese landscape scroll or an African mask and be moved spiritually or feel emotion. And I think that's what great art does. I don't think photography has the only claim on that. I think great photographs can do that, but I think other kinds of art do it too. And I think there's a quality about photographs which is what I described - its connection, this feeling that there's something about what's depicted that remains in that picture.
We know that photography doesn't always tell the truth, but there is a feeling of authenticity and of connection.
PhotoWings: How about causing change, such as Lewis Hine or Jacob Riis?
Malcolm Daniel: Well, I think those are very direct examples. In a way, photography for them was a tool used with great artistry, but a tool to accomplish certain ends. I think other things have the power to change too.
My heart is back in the 19th century. Nineteenth century French and British photography is what my area of expertise is and what makes my heart flutter. And for me, there's a connection when we look at photographs from the 1850s. For instance, I'm working on a show right now with guest curator Roger Taylor that focuses on British calotypes, so photographs from paper negatives made in the 1850s when people had the choice of using glass negatives or paper and they chose paper. There was a certain kind of person that chose that. It was often a gentleman-amateur. They preferred the aesthetics of that sort of fuzzy paper negative over the crystal clear glass. And it set them apart, in sort of a class way, from the trade - from the people that ran the photo studios and such, which were almost always glass negatives.
I think - I hope - that when people come to this, they are moved. Their lives change. Their actions change. The world becomes a better place because people take those same lessons that for all of the pressures of the big city and the modern life and the fast pace that there is something enriching personally, and something to be learned about our relations with the rest of humankind and with our planet through looking at these pictures and thinking about how they react and how the photographers reacted when they first saw them.
What did they photograph with the paper negatives? They photographed nature studies, geological formations, ruins, landscape, travel, loved ones, family, and things about their own life. If you set that against what was going on at the time - the 1850s were in the midst of the Industrial Revolution and burgeoning cities, London and Edinburgh and Newcastle and Manchester and Leeds and Birmingham - I think that people found an antidote to the ills of modern life, the pressures of modern society, in the contemplation of nature, in the company of family, in the meditation upon the passage of time as they looked at ruined abbeys that were once the great works of man.
And I think all those lessons are still true. I think - I hope - that when people come to this, they are moved. Their lives change. Their actions change. The world becomes a better place because people take those same lessons that for all of the pressures of the big city and the modern life and the fast pace that there is something enriching personally, and something to be learned about our relations with the rest of humankind and with our planet through looking at these pictures and thinking about how they react and how the photographers reacted when they first saw them.
I don't think that Alfred Capel-Cure or Benjamin Brecknell Turner were trying to change the world. But I have a certain perspective which is still relevant, and for me, it's actually much more interesting, in particular being in an art museum as this is, and not particularly a photography museum. Those kinds of changes are actually more interesting to me than those where photography was used as a tool for social change in a very explicit way, because I think that's actually quite easy to understand. You show terrible conditions in which people are living. It stirs people's consciences and things can change and that's great. And someone like Hine was brilliant with the camera and he made moving portraits. I think he was an artist with the camera, but it's a more direct and quite easily understandable thing, I think.
PhotoWings: So you think it brings history to life? It makes people realize that they can lose what they know and love today?
Malcolm Daniel: Brings history to life? I think there's an aspect of that...
Certainly, we think when we look at pictures from a hundred years ago; it does stir us to think about what the world was like at a certain point. But I think it's more than just bringing history to life. This direct connection happens between seeing and feeling and living. I think that's what art's about.
Henry Peach Robinson (English, 1830-1901)
"She Never Told Her Love", 1857
Albumen silver print from glass negative, 18 x 23.2 cm (7 1/16 x 9 1/8 in. )
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2005 (2005.100.18)
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Enduring Photograph: What Makes a Picture Great?
PhotoWings: What do you think makes a great photograph, and have those parameters changed over time?
Malcolm Daniel: Sure, I think at different points in history people looked for different things in photography. For me, sometimes it's beauty, sometimes it's a historical resonance, sometimes it's power of emotional impact, the ambition of the artist, the skill and craft with which the picture was made. The rarity of something that we are interested in.
Sometimes things feel diluted by overexposure. Nobody feels moved by the Mona Lisa anymore because they've seen it reproduced and satirized a million times. So it's awfully hard to stand in front of that and have any kind of spiritual experience. It still is a great painting. We just can't experience it as such. You're more likely to go to the National Gallery to look at the Leonardo portrait of Ginevra de' Benci there, which probably you haven't seen in reproduction a million times and be astonished by the quality of painting and the sense of soul and personality that comes through.
And so, the same is true with photographs. That's one of the reasons why rarity matters to us, is because we can provide an experience that people haven't had elsewhere. You know, as great as The Moonrise Over Hernandez is, for those of us who have been looking at photography for a long time, it's hard to see that in a fresh way. Something we haven't seen before is exciting.
I think at different points in history, people looked for different things in photography. For me, sometimes it's beauty, sometimes it's a historical resonance, sometimes it's power of emotional impact, the ambition of the artist, the skill and craft with which the picture was made.
Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879–1973)
Alfred Stieglitz at 291, 1915
Coated gum bichromate over platinum print, 28.8 x 24.2 cm (11 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933 (33.43.29)
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Dramatic Tales of Stieglitz and The Met
PhotoWings: What was the tipping point for photography to finally be considered art?
Malcolm Daniel: Oh, I don't know. It's been art since the invention and I think different people have different tipping points. There are still people who aren't convinced, I think. I don't think I can answer that. Stieglitz convinced people it was art and then there are people after Stieglitz that don't think it's art. It's something that's been debated from the moment it was born and it'll keep being debated however long. It's always been accepted as art by many people and it's always been rejected as a mechanical process by many people. I don't think there's a tipping point.
PhotoWings: Well, at some point at this museum they decided it was important to have a collection and then they gave you the big gallery.
Malcolm Daniel: Well, photography came in 1928. It didn't happen in 1992 when we became a department. It came in 1928 as a gift of Stieglitz. So, it was a dozen years after the establishment of a print department. They didn't have prints until 1916. I think these things happen gradually. I think photography is more and more a part of contemporary art. But we're not a museum of contemporary art, either. We try to be encyclopedic with our collections. And there's no denying that there is an art of photography and any representation of the creative expression of mankind, from the beginning of time to the present around the world, has got to include photography.
PhotoWings: You talked about how your collection was built. I'm curious about the people who originally assembled these special collections. Why did they feel compelled to do so?
Malcolm Daniel: The first curator of prints was a brilliant, largely self-educated man in terms of his education about prints named William Ivins who wrote a book called Prints and Visual Communication and then there's a wonderful, thin little book called How Prints Look, which is a model.
He had gone to Harvard and taken Paul Sachs' course there and had gone off to Germany to study economics or something and ended up spending all this time at the Albertinain Vienna, learning about drawing and prints.
We try to be encyclopedic with our collections, and there's no denying that there is an art of photography and any representation of the creative expression of mankind, from the beginning of time to the present around the world, has got to include photography.
He had visited Stieglitz's gallery in 1891 and knew Stieglitz and had seen the European avant-garde art that Stieglitz was showing, as well as photography. And so it was natural that he would be open to the idea of photographs as he was building a print collection.
And it was also Stieglitz's aim to place photography - particularly his own photography - at his favorite museum, the one which was the sort of temple of fine art.
Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879–1973)
The Flatiron, 1904, printed 1909
Gum bichromate over platinum print, 47.8 x 38.4 cm (18 13/16 x 15 1/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933 (33.43.39)
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
And so he began discussions with Stieglitz in the '20s about The Met buying work from him. Eventually, in 1928, Stieglitz made a gift of 22 of his own pictures, which included photographs of Georgia O'Keeffe, Equivalents, landscapes, and some other portraits specially chosen for this collection. He gave them in other people's names so it didn't look like he was giving them. He could profess surprise and delight at his work having been donated to The Met. But it took several years of negotiation and Ivins convinced the board to accept the gift. And in a way, it did open the doors of The Met to photography as both of them hoped. The next year, Paul Outerbridge gave photographs to The Met.
[Stieglitz] called up to say, "If you want it, it's yours. Send the truck. You've got 24 hours; otherwise I'm putting it in the garbage." And Ivins was away and his assistant answered the phone, took the message to the director and said, "You have to do this," and called Stieglitz back and said, "The truck is on its way."
What really threw the doors open was Stieglitz's gift in 1933 of more than 400 photographs by other photographers who he had shown in his galleries and published in Camera Work. By 1933, Stieglitz was making a completely different kind of picture than what had interested him, in his own work or in other people's work, in 1900 or 1902 or 1910 or 1915 even. And so it had become something of a burden to have all these pictures, and he offered it to The Met.
He called up to say, "If you want it, it's yours. Send the truck. You've got 24 hours; otherwise I'm putting it in the garbage." And Ivins was away and his assistant answered the phone, took the message to the director and said, "You have to do this," and called Stieglitz back and said, "The truck is on its way." And Stieglitz said, "Remember, anything that you don't want, you don't have to keep, but many of these things have real pedigree." They've been sent to major exhibitions around the world, and it has stayed whole; The Stieglitz Collection.
In 1928, Stieglitz made a gift of 22 of his own pictures. He gave them in other people's names so it didn't look like he was giving them. He could profess surprise and delight at his work having been donated to The Met.
And he gave a further 200 photographs by other people by bequest. So this great core of our collection is the Photo-Secession. We're very strong from 1895 to 1915.
I think many people probably know the three large gum prints of The Flatiron by Edward Steichen, each a different color, as though a different moment of twilight. Those are three of many large exhibition prints by Steichen that we have from that early period. Great works byPaul Strand from around 1916, Gertrude Käsebier, F. Holland Day, Charles Sheeler, Clarence White, Stieglitz himself. And then Georgia O'Keeffe - put on deposit here and eventually they were acquired, some as recently as 1997 - about 75 of the portraits that Stieglitz made of her over a period of time.
Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe, 1918
Platinum print, 11.7 x 9 cm (4 5/8 x 3 9/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Georgia O’Keeffe through the generosity of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation and Jennifer and Joseph Duke, 1997 (1997.61.25)
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Big Mistake: Losing a Collection
Malcolm Daniel: There is a story which may be apocryphal but may not be apocryphal. The Met was, of course, Stieglitz's favorite museum, and when he died Georgia O'Keeffe came and spoke to the curator of prints, Hyatt Mayor, about placing the master set of photographs here. But Hyatt Mayor also was a brilliant curator brought in, I think, in the '30s by Ivins and eventually succeeded him as head of the Prints department.
And Hyatt Mayor had a wonderfully all-encompassing sense of what constituted the graphic arts. So did Ivins...
And so they were open to photography. They also acquired many things that we couldn't hope to touch today. One of the earliest purchases was an album of photogenic drawings by Talbot from 1839 and 1840, sent to an Italian botanist friend of Talbot's named Bertoloni. And Bertoloni put them carefully in an album along with Talbot's letters. That was acquired in 1936. You know, we couldn't hope to acquire something like that nowadays. So they were open to photography and they bought some great things. They weren't photograph curators. This wasn't a photograph collection per se.
Hyatt Mayor wrote a note to the director saying that "Mrs. Stieglitz had offered us thousands of prints, but her demands for their matting and storage were so onerous that I convinced her to give us just a sampling of Stieglitz's work."
So when O'Keeffe came and said, "It would be my desire to follow Mr. Stieglitz's wishes that the master set, the best print of each picture that he made, come to The Met," Mayor listened. And she said, "There's only one stipulation. Mr. Stieglitz was very particular about how they were cropped and matted, and for him it was all part of the presentation of the work of art."
In fact, it's true that when Stieglitz made his gift in 1928, he had them matted and framed because he wanted it done in a particular way. So O'Keeffe said, "You know, it's a certain size, it's 18 by 22 inches. The window mat has to be exactly at the place where Mr. Stieglitz has put it."
And Hyatt Mayor said, "Well, that's interesting, we actually have a different system. There are certain standard sizes. There's 14 ¼" by 19 ¼". There's 16" by 22". Our boxes are that size, and that way the pictures don't move around in the box and stay safe. It's a good way to store them."
She said, "No, no. He was really very particular about this." Hyatt Mayor said, "This is what we do with our Durers and our Rembrandts and our Goyas and our Schongauers." She said, "Well, Mrs. Durer, Mrs. Rembrandt, Mrs. Goya and Mrs. Schongauer aren't here to tell you otherwise." And she gave a master set to the National Gallery. And we all cringe now at that.
And that comment may not have been true, but the fact is true. And Hyatt Mayor wrote a note to the director saying that "Mrs. Stieglitz had offered us thousands of prints, but her demands for their matting and storage were so onerous that I convinced her to give us just a sampling of Stieglitz's work."
And of course, we regret that now. But also, at the time there probably weren't 2,000 pictures by any artist in the collection, and it wasn't a photography collection. And in a way, it probably would have seemed to skew the holdings in such an inappropriate way that one can understand why Hyatt Mayor would react in that way. You know, we have 60 years of hindsight and we have photo history to teach us things.
There weren't any photo history books for Hyatt Mayor. What he knew about photography was self-taught, really. It's amazing that they collected what they did. We now have a reference library here. The books didn't exist. Teachers didn't take a history of photography course. So it's wonderful we have the things we have. And it's easy and amusing to blame Hyatt Mayor for the National Gallery's riches and our loss. But it's also understandable, I think. So they were the first two curators of Prints and Photographs: William Ivins, Hyatt Mayor.
Hyatt Mayor was succeeded by a man named John McKendry in the '60s. He was very connected to the fashion world and to Warhol, and therefore photography flourished under his brief leadership. He died quite young.
And it was Ivins who hired Weston Naef as an assistant curator, first as a graduate assistant or something and then as an assistant curator. And Weston, although he wasn't really hired as a photography person, he made it his bailiwick. He did important shows drawing on the Stieglitz collection and also exploring Western American landscape photography. And then he left to go to the Getty Museum in 1984. Maria Hambourg was hired in 1985 and she was really the first person to come in with her doctorate in history of art with a specialization in photography, to be really hired as a photography curator. That sort of catches you up.
Eugène Atget (French, 1857–1927)
Ville d'Avray, 1923-1925
Albumen silver print from glass negative, 17.4 x 22.5 cm (6 7/8 x 8 7/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Commitment of Collectors such as Howard Gilman and John Waddell
PhotoWings: How about some of these collectors, such as Gilman and the Ford Collection? What brought them to photography? Why were they so passionate about collecting?
Malcolm Daniel: With Howard Gilman, it was almost accidental. He and his curator, Pierre Apraxine—a brilliant, creative, wonderful curator—were collecting minimal art, but they had it in their offices and they realized it wasn't the right kind of art to have in the office setting. It was too much in danger. [They had] things that needed to be very pristine.
Then they began collecting visionary architectural drawings. They put together an interesting collection of that which has subsequently been given to the Museum of Modern Art. But they found that architects really didn't want to part with the kinds of drawings that they were interested in collecting.
And then they bought some 20th century photographs. Pierre had previously worked at the Marlborough Gallery and at MoMA before that. And so they bought some Richard Avedon and a picture by Diane Arbus and some Robert Frank—third quarter of the 20th century. This was in the early '70s.
[Pierre Apraxine] said, "I didn't even know who Baldus was at the time, but when you see a picture like that, you just realize it's a masterpiece." And he came back and said to Howard, "This is where we have to go," meaning early photography. I think it's because it was virgin territory, in many ways, that it was exciting.
And then they thought it might actually be interesting to have a small group of 19th century pictures that would just be an introduction to the collection. And of course, that's what ultimately became the core of the collection, the 19th and early 20th century.
Pierre tells the story of having gone on a buying trip to Paris in 1977, I believe, and having seen this wonderful picture by Édouard Baldus of a family outside. The woman's holding an umbrella up and it's almost like an impressionist picture - [actually] before impressionism, a picture from the mid-1850s. And he said, "I didn't even know who Baldus was at the time, but when you see a picture like that, you just realize it's a masterpiece." And he came back and said to Howard, "This is where we have to go," meaning early photography. I think it's because it was virgin territory, in many ways, that it was exciting. And that's still what we feel is that sense of discovery and to build a collection of the sorts of pictures that nobody else is interested in.
In the early days of the collection, the late '70s and the early '80s, there were other serious collectors. There was Phyllis Lambert and there wasPaul Walter and Sam Wagstaff and a handful of other people. There weren't many.
And most people didn't have the financial resources that Howard had and the willingness to put down record-setting amounts of money to buy the very best. And they did. They put together an extraordinary collection that included not only things that were already recognized as icons of photography, but things that nobody had seen but that Pierre and Howard recognized as having the power of great art.
PhotoWings: What did Pierre tell Howard that convinced Howard? And how did Howard think about the work?
Malcolm Daniel: I don't know the answer to that. I think Howard was certainly engaged in every acquisition. It wasn't that he just provided money to Pierre to go buy what Pierre wanted. Pierre discussed every acquisition with Howard. He had to make Howard interested, and I think Howard was interested for the same reason we're all interested in photography.
Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Curators, Galleries and Private Collectors: Their Symbiotic Relationships
PhotoWings: Can you talk a little bit about the different mindsets between curators, galleries, collectors, photographers? They bring different sensibilities.
Malcolm Daniel: I think everybody brings a different sensibility. We curators have a job to do. It's a different job than a private collector has and it's a different job than a critic has or a photographer.
And ours has to do with the mission of this museum, and our mission is different than other museums. Other curators have a different perspective than we have here. Our mission is here on the bulletin board: To collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advance knowledge of works of art that collectively represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality, all at the service of the public and in accordance with the highest professional standards. There it is. That's our perspective.
In New York, there are a number of institutions actively collecting and exhibiting photographs. But when you go to The Met, the Modern, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, ICP, for each of us, there's a kind of institutional personality and there's a perspective of individual curators.
So when we're looking at photography, that's what we have in mind. And that's very different than the mission that a private collector may give to himself, or that a curator at a museum of modern art or a curator at a museum of photographs would have.
In New York, for instance, there are a number of institutions actively collecting and exhibiting photographs. But I think when you go to The Met, the Modern, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, ICP, for each of us, there's a kind of institutional personality and there's a perspective of individual curators. It's a different experience at these different places. And I think that's great for the public, great for the medium, great for the institutions.
PhotoWings: Could you talk a little bit about the mindset of the galleries? Is it profit-motivated specifically?
Malcolm Daniel: Well, I don't think it's an easy business to be in, and I don't think that anybody opens a gallery as the way to make a quick buck. Gallerists work really hard. There are many gallerists that struggle. I think gallerists have to love art, have to believe in their artists, and have to want to proselytize a little bit the same way that we do as curators. But it is a business and I think that does color the activities of the galleries and the choices of artists and things like that. I mean, it's different from a museum. There's no question.
PhotoWings: So what kind of influences do gallery owners and collectors have on a museum's decisions in what they acquire?
Malcolm Daniel: Well, I think there is a first culling that happens through the gallery world in particular. We see artists' work directly, but there are hundreds of photographers out there, thousands of photographers, just in New York. We can't know them all, so there's a sorting that goes on.
Since you can't see every photographer yourself, you have to trust that someone else among the hundreds of gallerists will recognize great work when it arrives on their doorstep and that it will sort of percolate to the top. So there's a sorting that happens for us a little bit. We have trouble just getting out to all the galleries. Just to keep up with all of those, let alone all of the individual photographers that are out there that don't have gallery representation... Not to say that somebody can't be good and not have found a gallery, because there's a business aspect to it too.
PhotoWings: Since galleries are out to make money, why is photojournalist and photo documentary work made by photographers - those working with Magnum or National Geographic or some of the high profile, very successful photographers - why are they seldom seen in museums?
Malcolm Daniel: Well, at the moment, we are showing an exhibition of Robert Polidori's photographs called New Orleans: After the Flood and, of course, he's the staff photographer for The New Yorker. So it's not that we don't do that at all.
I think there are other museums, for instance ICP, which have always had photojournalism as a more integral part of their mission. Our mission is to collect art here. And we don't concentrate on fashion photography, advertising photography, scientific photography, ethnographic photography, or photojournalism. Those are all aspects of the medium. There are things that we collect examples of, but they're not our primary direction.
There is a first culling that happens through the gallery world. There are hundreds of photographers out there, thousands of photographers, just in New York. We can't know them all. You have to trust that someone else among the hundreds of gallerists will recognize great work when it arrives on their doorstep and that it will sort of percolate to the top.
And, even within this museum, there are other collections of photography. The Costume Institute has a huge collection of fashion photography. The Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas here have a large collection of graphic and anthropological photography. We are not looking for photographs of historic things or events, which is largely what photojournalism is about. We are interested in collecting those works that represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest levels of quality. We are really looking for those great works of expression.
Saving Our Photographic Heritage
Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
PhotoWings: Do you get a sense that there are valuable photographic works at risk of being lost to the world forever?
Malcolm Daniel: Sure. There are many things that aren't recognized as having value and get discarded, and that's part of what causes rarity. But there are people that address this issue. There's The Judith Rothschild Foundation, which gives grants in support of preserving, acquiring, classifying, and exhibiting the work of recently deceased photographers who never enjoyed the kind of recognition that they should have during their lifetime. So for instance, sometimes they'll make a grant to an estate so that an artist's archive can be preserved and things can be properly housed and somebody can classify them and organize them and make sure that they're not discarded. It still has to be work of quality. Not everything is worth saving. Often people call up here - and call up probably every museum - and say, "My grandfather was a photographer and I have 4,000 slides that he took. Would you be interested?"
I'm not sure there is a home for everything. I think that sometimes a collection [of personal photos] is wonderfully valuable to someone like a local historical society. It's not all great art, and yet it can still have meaning. It can tell the history, through one family's eyes, of a town, for instance. And so sometimes, instead of being thrown out or put in the basement, it's really invaluable to a local historical society.
I'm not sure there is a home for everything. I think that sometimes a collection like that is wonderfully valuable to someone like a local historical society. It's not all great art, and yet it can still have meaning. It can tell the history, through one family's eyes, of a town, for instance. And so sometimes, instead of being thrown out or put in the basement, it's really invaluable to a local historical society.
But it's a real undertaking. It was one thing for us to acquire Walker Evans' negatives and to see to the restoration of those curlings, those celluloid nitrate negatives. That's Walker Evans. You know, it's a different thing if it's John Doe. A local historical society with very limited resources, how can they take 4,000 color slides from somebody? How do they ever know what those are? How do they classify them? How do they preserve them? It's a huge responsibility, unfortunately.
And then I think there are times when the truth of the matter is photography is so ubiquitous. The billions upon billions of photographs that have been made, most of them aren't worth... I mean, I hate to say that, but we can't preserve everything. We have to make value judgments.
And we can't always be certain that the value judgments that we make are [right]. And so I think things do get lost. But not every photograph can be preserved, so we as professionals—and everybody else out there who cares—tries to make those judgments about which things are the most revealing about history, about expression, about lives. Sometimes the only value of something is within the family, and they should be preserved by the family. So keep it, pass it on to one's children and grandchildren, and maybe it never goes any further. But if it enriches and gives meaning to family history, that's great.
We can't preserve everything. We have to make value judgments. And we can't always be certain that the value judgments that we make are [right]. And so I think things do get lost.
PhotoWings: Photographers tend to be good storytellers and a lot of them have been at the forefront of history. Have you been involved much with the oral histories?
Malcolm Daniel: I think there's a value, but I haven't been involved. I think part of that is simply that my deepest interests are in the 19thcentury. I could go back and do an oral history with Édouard Baldus or Roger Fenton or Edgar Degas. I would jump at the chance, but it's not an option for me.
PhotoWings: You've known a lot of photographers and photographers' stories. Is there a common characteristic that you've noticed among the ones who have become well-known or had their work recognized?
Malcolm Daniel: Well, hopefully they're the ones who have done the most exciting, new, expressive work. I don't know that that's always the case, but one would hope so.
Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Moving into the Future: New Media and Enriching the Web Site
PhotoWings: What would the public be surprised to learn about your collection?
Malcolm Daniel: I think one of the things that the public will be surprised to learn about The Met is that we don't just collect all those little brown photographs that I love so much from the 19th century or from dead photographers. We do collect up to the very present moment. We have been displaying our contemporary holdings over the last five years or so downstairs outside the modern art wing.
We don't just collect all those little brown photographs that I love so much from the 19th century or from dead photographers. We do collect up to the very present moment.
And also that we are pushing the boundaries a little bit of what has traditionally been collected by the Photography department. We have started to collect judiciously, slowly, in a considered way video and new media. And so we want to have a show of video and new media from the collection that will include works by David Hammons, Ann Hamilton, Lutz Backer, Omer Fast, Maria Marshall, Wolfgang Staehle, Jim Campbell, Darren Almond, and I think people will be surprised to see that at The Met.
We've chosen to collect those works which seem to be a natural outgrowth out of photography, so the same kinds of aesthetics and ideas and concerns that interest us in still photography are what we gravitate towards in video and new media. We have not collected, for instance, those things which are more narrative and cinematic like Matthew Barney. These tend to be things that one can enter, experience, and exit from on one's own time. You don't have to sit down and watch for an hour and a half, or even for nine minutes. You can come up to it, experience it, move away from it. They tend to be non-narrative and they have aesthetic or intellectual connections to photography.
We have many pages of information about photography [and photographic images] and other reproductions on The Met's Web site, within its timeline of art history. That's become a great resource for art history teachers.
We also have many pages of information about photography [and photographic images] and other reproductions on The Met's Website, within its Timeline of Art History. That's become a great resource for art history teachers.
We are working towards putting our whole collection on the Web. We should have all of our collection database records available to the public on The Met's Web site, with reproductions of those images which have been photographed, which is an ongoing project. And when we don't have permission, we'll just put up the collection record.
PhotoWings: So people will be able to purchase copies of these?
Malcolm Daniel: Eventually there will be a way to order prints. This will be really just for study - to know what we have here, to plan a visit for a study room.
I think one of the most important aspects of this will be that we'll get the Walker Evans archive on the Web. This is something that Jeff Rosenheim, Doug Eklund, and Mia Fineman - all of whom are still on staff - and a host of volunteers and interns have spent a dozen years cataloging. And it's an amazing trove of information about an artist who is central to 20th century art in America.
The same kinds of aesthetics and ideas and concerns that interest us in still photography are what we gravitate towards in video and new media.
At the moment, you have to make an appointment in our study room one of two mornings per week and sit at one computer terminal in order to know what we have. When we go live online, people will be able to look through all of Evans' photographs, the correspondence, the drafts of his writings, the work that he collected by other people. And they'll be able to conduct really thoughtful research on Evans just sitting at their own terminal.
PhotoWings: That's very exciting. Well thank you very much. Is there anything you would like to add?
Malcolm Daniel: Come visit. You know, I sort of feel bad ending on a discussion of sitting at your own terminal and seeing the things on the computer screen, because there is no experience like standing in front of the real thing. I wish we had more things on view at any given moment, but we do have photographs on view always and they change every few months. And we do also allow researchers to come in and work in our study room and to look at other things that are not on view in any given moment.
PhotoWings: Do you have to be a researcher to go to the study room?
Malcolm Daniel: No, but you have to know what it is that you want to see. We have limited space, so we can only take a few people at a time and only a few mornings a week. So we give priority to people who are bringing in a class and want to teach with actual works of art, or curators. But someone who has always loved the work of an artist that's represented in our collection can make an appointment.
We are working towards putting our whole collection on The Met's Web site, with reproductions of those images which have been photographed. I think one of the most important aspects of this will be that we'll get the Walker Evans archive on the Web. And it's an amazing trove of information about an artist who is central to 20th century art in America.
The Stieglitz Society Auxiliary at The Met
PhotoWings: And you also have an auxiliary, I believe.
Malcolm Daniel: We do. We have a Friends group called [The Alfred] Stieglitz Society, since Stieglitz played such a founding role in our history. It's now eight years old. We have about 55 members, either individuals or member couples. We have events more or less monthly during the school year which include lectures by artists, visits to studios, visits to private collections, seminars taught by the curators using the collection here, conservators showing what they're working on. There's a big annual dinner at which we curators present works of art for acquisition, and then there's a vote on how they wish their dues money to be spent. We've bought some great photographs over the years, thanks to The Stieglitz Society.
PhotoWings: Is there a percentage of dues that goes towards acquisition?
Malcolm Daniel: Except for [the costs of] running the program itself, which is relatively minimal, the money goes towards acquisitions. And it's been a great success and I think the people who are involved in it are very excited about it and are quite faithful to it. And we have now a range of age and interest and collecting experience. We started a new lower dues level for members under 40, and it's a great group of people actually.
PhotoWings: Are you noticing that younger people have a big interest in photography?
Malcolm Daniel: Well I think photography is an area young people collect, in part, because it is still relatively affordable and, in part, because it's a medium which young people are linked to. It's part of our modern world. So I think that was part of our motivation for making the Friends group more accessible to collectors.