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Indepth Arts News:

"A New Kind of Historical Evidence: Highlighting an Extraordinary Range of Photographic Practice"
2005-08-08 until 2005-10-30
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard
Cambridge, MA, USA

An exhibition opening August 6 at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum will present images from a vast collection of photographs, negatives, and related material collected during four decades by curators at the University's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. The images reflect a range of uses of the medium, including social documentary, vernacular, and art photography. A New Kind of Historical Evidence: Photographs from the Carpenter Center Collection, will feature 70 photographs and ephemera selected from the 28,000-object collection, which was placed on permanent deposit at the Fogg in 2002.

The title of the exhibition comes from a 1967 Harvard Alumni Bulletin article reporting the establishment of the Carpenter Center collection and heralding photography as “a new kind of historic evidence.” The collection contains some of photography’s most famous images and is an extremely valuable resource for scholars and researchers. Visitors to the exhibition will see works from the four components of the Carpenter Center’s holdings: the Fine Art Photographers Collection, the Social Museum Collection, the American Professional Photographers Collection, and the Boston Transit Collection.

Among the photographs on display will be Edward Weston’s classic Nude (1936), from the Fine Art Photographers Collection; Frances Benjamin Johnston’s comparative photographs (c. 1899) of a poor person’s crumbling shack and the tidy two-story house of a graduate of the Hampton Institute in Virginia, once displayed in the Social Museum to show the benefits of education; Harry Annas’s 1949 studio portrait of a boy in a cowboy outfit, Untitled (Lockhart, Texas), from the American Professional Photographers Collection; and Paul Rowell’s E.R. Warren, Motorman – a 1907 portrait of a young, mustachioed man in a double-breasted full-length coat and conductor’s cap, from the Boston Transit Collection.

The Carpenter Center Photograph Collection was established by Harvard University in the mid-1960s as a resource for teaching the history of photography and its aesthetic practice. The collection initially consisted of photographs gathered from various Harvard departments and repositories. It was significantly expanded by Davis Pratt, founding curator (1966–72), and by Barbara Norfleet, a social psychologist, noted photographer, and the collection’s visionary curator for three decades until her retirement in 2002.

“The Carpenter Collection doubled the size of the Fogg’s photography holdings and transformed our Museum into an important center for the study of social documentary and vernacular photography,” said Thomas W. Lentz, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard University Art Museums. “Visitors will see the extraordinary range of material that is available to them for research and study at virtually any time in our Mongan Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.”

The exhibition was organized by Michelle Lamunière, the Charles C. Cunningham Sr. Assistant Curator in the Department of Photographs, with the collaboration of curatorial assistant Kate Palmer and former Boston University student intern Julia Dolan. The Widgeon Point Charitable Foundation has provided major support for work on the Carpenter Center Photograph Collection, including this exhibition.

Barger Studio:
Orrion Barger (American, 1913-1984)
Edith Barger (American, b. 1913),
Untitled (Betty's first bike, Chamberlain, South Dakota), 1948
Gelatin silver print, c. 1979,
by Barbara Norfleet and assistants,
24.1 x 30.8 cm.
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums,
On deposit from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts,
4.2002.38. Photo: Katya Kallsen, HUAM,
© President and Fellows of Harvard College.

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