Look Again: 45 Years of Collecting Photography
On view through April 14, 2019
Photography is a uniquely elastic medium. It can fulfill numerous utilitarian purposes—recording personal memories, chronicling collective histories, or furnishing documentary evidence—yet it also offers dynamic potential for creative expression.
The High Museum of Art began collecting photographs in the early 1970s, and the collection now includes more than 7,000 photographs from around the world made by diverse practitioners, from artists to entrepreneurs, journalists and scientists. Spanning the very beginnings of the medium in the 1840s to the present, the collection has depth in American modernist and documentary traditions from the 20th century as well as current contemporary practices.
This exhibition, drawn from the High’s collection and local private collections, will explore the medium’s layered history and its ever-evolving present by delving into the myriad ways a photograph can be a conduit for ideas, information and emotion. Through the collection’s most prized prints and many unsung gems, the exhibition will survey a broad sweep of the history of photography, incorporating some of its oldest photographic objects along with prints made in the past year, and emphasize the distinct strengths of the High’s collection.
Self-Portrait in Mirrors, Paris
Ilse Bing (born Germany, 1899–1998), Self-Portrait in Mirrors, Paris, 1931, printed ca. 1941, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from Georgia-Pacific Corporation, 1987.143
Bing’s photographs document the early twentieth-century “new woman,” a type who was no longer confined to the domestic sphere typical of past generations but engaged freely in the changing urban landscapes in Europe and the United States.
In this multifaceted self-portrait, Bing plays with the concept of fragmented identity through her multiple reflections. The sharp focus on her mirrored profile draws attention away from her forward-pointing lens, allowing the viewer to feel like a subject as well as a spectator.
Lightening Fields 182
Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948), Lightening Fields 182, 2009, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase through funds provided by patrons of the Third Annual Collectors Evening, 2012, 2012.3
In a series of experiments, Hiroshi Sugimoto applied charges of electricity directly to unexposed film to create images without the use of camera or lens. His process embodies the medium of photography at its most elemental: Exposing a photo-sensitive material to light, creating an image that is chemically fixed from fading.
The resulting photograph is rich in tonality, its electric shapes abstract while also resembling the basic structures on which natural forms are built. Here, the trace of an electric charge sweeps across the composition, reading in turns like the textures of a human hand, the upward-reaching tentacles of a fern, and the stark branches of a tree.
Phoenix Park on a Sunday, Dublin, 1966
Evelyn Hofer (American, 1922–2009), Phoenix Park on a Sunday, Dublin, 1966, dye transfer print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser in honor of Brett Abbott, 2016.442
Evelyn Hofer began her five-decade career as a photographer in the New York magazine world of the 1940s producing fashion spreads for Harper’s Bazaar. Her commercial experience with color photography made her an early innovator when she shifted her focus to fine art and editorial photography in the 1960s. Hofer used color in expressive ways to direct her viewers’ attention. She framed this portrait of a group of soccer players so that their vibrant jerseys set them apart from the subdued tones of the Dublin park where Hofer encountered them.
Sally Mann (American, born 1951), Sunday Funnies, 1991, printed 1995, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection, 1995.179
From 1985 to 1994, Sally Mann photographed the coming of age of her three children: Emmett, Jessie, and Virginia. One of the first photographers to explore in depth the psyche and drama of adolescence, Mann’s series Immediate Family is an intimate portrait of childhood through the tender eye of a mother. Although the children often directly confront the camera in the series, Sunday Funnies depicts a quiet scene when the children may not even realize their private moment is being lovingly captured.
Man Ray (American, 1890–1976), Dust Breeding, 1920, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from Georgia-Pacific Corporation, 1984.223
A fixture of Surrealist and Dadaist circles in Paris, Man Ray was a close friend and collaborator of fellow artist Marcel Duchamp. At his friend’s request, Man Ray photographed Duchamp’s sculpture The Large Glass after it had collected a year’s worth of dust in storage while Duchamp was in New York. Taken from an elevated perspective and with part of the sculpture cropped out, the photograph transcends mere documentation by disorienting any sense of scale. The modestly sized artwork is transformed into an expansive otherworldly landscape.
View Down the Valley, Yosemite
Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829–1916), View Down the Valley, Yosemite, 1865–1866, albumen silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Life Insurance Company of Georgia, 1980.119
Carleton Watkins was one of the most highly acclaimed photographers to survey the American West in the 1860s. This sweeping view of the Yosemite Valley conveys the awe-inspiring grandeur of the Western landscape that drew so many travelers and entrepreneurs.
Watkins anchored the composition by flanking the tree-lined valley floor with the iconic landmarks of Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan rising on either side. In the foreground, the glassy Merced River conveys the stillness of a seemingly untouched wilderness.
Swamp and Pipeline, Geismar, Louisiana
Richard Misrach (American, born 1949), Swamp and Pipeline, Geismar, Louisiana, 1998, printed 2012, pigmented inkjet print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the H. B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust, Lucinda W. Bunnen, and High Museum of Art Enhancement Fund, 2012.7
(c) Richard Misrach 1998. Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, Pace-MacGill Gallery and Marc Selwyn Fine Arts
Richard Misrach, renowned for his contemporary landscapes of the American West, received a commission from the High Museum for its Picturing the South initiative in 1998. He chose to photograph the highly industrialized section of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans known as Cancer Alley.
Misrach described Cancer Alley as a “remarkable corridor of historic, cultural, and natural resources, which in the past decades has been virtually decimated by the introduction of the petro-chemical industry. Alongside restored and potentially restorable classic antebellum plantations sit over 136 behemoth industrial sites—a bizarre juxtaposition of the charming and the horrific.”
Blacktail Lake WY 7
Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982), Blacktail Lake WY 7, 2013, dye coupler print soaked in Blacktail Lake water. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from Stephen Wells and Will Hackman, 2017.344
Matthew Brandt’s experimental approach to image making reconfigures the basic physical elements of photographic objects. In his Lakes and Reservoirs series, Brandt photographed bodies of water throughout the American West and then soaked the prints for several weeks in water he had collected from those locations.
The lake water broke down each image, causing the color dyes to dissolve and mix together and the emulsion to bubble and crack, abstracting what was once a straightforward description of a majestic vista. The resulting image is literally embedded with the residue of what it represents and, in a sense, was created in collaboration with the landscape itself.
Cookie at Tin Pan Alley, NYC, 1983
Nan Goldin (American, born 1953), Cookie at Tin Pan Alley, NYC, 1983, 1983, dye destruction print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection, 2005.337.6
(c) Nan Goldin
This photograph is part of Nan Goldin’s Cookie portfolio, which documents the artist’s familial-like friendship with Cookie Mueller, who died of AIDS in 1989. Goldin was among a generation of photographers who, instead of looking to the outside world for inspiration, focused on the deep personal and social bonds in their communities. Goldin described her process as “a way of touching somebody—it’s a caress. I’m looking with a warm eye, not a cold eye. I’m not analyzing what’s going on—I just get inspired to take a picture by the beauty and vulnerability of my friends.”
Look Again: 45 Years of Collecting Photography is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta
This exhibition is made possible by
Premier Exhibition Series Partner
Exhibition Series Sponsors
Premier Exhibition Series Supporter
The Antinori Foundation
Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporter
Anne Cox Chambers Foundation
Ambassador Exhibition Supporters
Tom and Susan Wardell
Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Marcia and John Donnell
W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole
Robin and Hilton Howell
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
Margot and Danny McCaul
Generous support is also provided by
Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Marjorie and Carter Crittenden, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, Massey Charitable Trust, RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund, and Dr. Diane L. Wisebram