Indepth Arts News: |
"Other Pictures: Vernacular Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection"
2000-06-06 until 2000-08-27
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, NY,
Photographs by anonymous amateurs whose happy
accidents and successful failures resulted in
surprising and tantalizing works of art are the
subject of Other Pictures: Vernacular Photographs
from the Thomas Walther Collection, on view at
The Metropolitan Museum of Art through August 27,
2000. Dating from the 1910s through the 1960s—a
period that saw the camera's emergence as a nearly
ubiquitous and easy-to-use accessory of modern
life—these photographs reflect the spirit of their
time in refreshingly honest and often unexpected
ways. Although never intended for public
display—most of the approximately ninety
photographs on view were discovered at flea
markets, in shoeboxes, or in family albums—these
found images often bring to mind the work of such
master photographers as Walker Evans, Man Ray,
Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Diane Arbus.
The exhibition is drawn exclusively from the
Thomas Walther Collection, one of the finest private
collections of photographs in the world, and reflects
Mr. Walther's longstanding interest in the most
innovative avant-garde art of the period—whether
by established masters or unknown amateurs.
In 1909 Alfred Stieglitz, the dean of American art photography, warned amateur
photographers not to take themselves too seriously: Don't believe you became an artist
the instant you received a gift Kodak on Christmas morning, he cautioned. Other
Pictures challenges and broadens traditional assumptions about what constitutes a
photographic work of art and celebrates some of its unknown yet decidedly gifted
Mia Fineman, co-curator of the exhibition and research assistant in the Metropolitan
Museum's Department of Photographs, stated: These photographs are truly the
'crème-de-la-snapshot.' Each one is a little lure for the imagination, an enticement, a
revelation. The exhibition, the first of its kind at the Metropolitan Museum, sheds new
light on one of the most prolific and eccentric artists of our century: 'Photographer
Many of the works on view might be described as happy accidents or successful
failures—fortuitous moments when the camera's lens captured aspects of character or
images of beauty that the operator may not have intended. Among these is a double
exposure in which a main street trolley appears to trundle across an anonymous hotel
room bed. In another, an old wooden house is consumed in a flash of light that seems to
emanate from the window of a nearby car. A blurry, underexposed image of a woman
posed before a fireplace fails as a literal likeness, yet succeeds as an accidental emblem
of feminine mystique.
Photograph by unknown photographer.
Promised Gift of Thomas Walther.