Gift of the artist: photographers as donors

This blog is reposted from the Smithsonian Collections Blog.

This blog is a virtual exhibition, based on the small exhibition of original photographs currently on view in the cases adjacent to the Archives Center entrance on the first floor, west wing, of the National Museum of American History. It is a "recent acquisitions" display which contains a small percentage of the contemporary documentary photographs which I have collected in the last few years. I sought to honor and thank the photographers who graciously donated their work, but the exhibition also suggests the variety of themes and subjects which interest me as a curator. The exhibition opened in November and will continue until February 29, 2012.

Many photographers are self-employed, whether they operate commercial photography businesses, travel the world as photojournalists, or function as artists—creating self-assigned projects for sale to collectors and museums. They may also teach photography, or supplement their incomes with print sales.

The photographs displayed here were created by such free-lance photographers and suggest the wide variety of subjects, approaches, and techniques which the documentary spirit embraces—from images of American politics to depictions of musicians and their instruments; from preserving family history to recording accidents and the horrors of natural disasters. The images also illustrate a broad range of contemporary photographic media and techniques, including panoramas and stereographs, digital prints, and traditional silver gelatin prints.

All the images are recent Archives Center acquisitions, kindly donated by public-spirited creators who believe in the mission of museums and archives to document history, to educate, and to inspire. The Archives Center gratefully acknowledges the generosity of these talented photographers.

The Photographs

View the slideshow

Vitone, a professor of photography at St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas, contributed annotated studies of members of his extended family, photographed with an 8” x 10” view camera. These photographs are from his portfolio, “Family Records,” created between 1998 and 2004.

Dylan Vitone, the son of Joseph Vitone, whose work is shown above, is a professor of photography at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. He often creates horizontal panoramas through multiple exposures, and an occasional vertical “panorama,” such as the one shown here.

Annabel Dunstone is a student of Joseph Vitone at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. In early 2011 she participated in a class documentary project to photograph the small town of Lockhart near Austin. Twelve students, including Dunstone, were asked to donate their Lockhart photographs to the Archives Center because they represent a model for a focused, yet varied group documentary project. Shown here is an image from her untitled portfolio.

Reissig is another of Joseph Vitone’s students. This image is from his Lockhart portfolio, “Lilly and Kirk.”

In recent years Nancy Sirkis has concentrated on two large continuing projects: “Five Boroughs,” a study of New York City, and “Small Towns,” for which she has traveled widely across America. Many of her images are panoramas, created by taking multiple incremental exposures rather than a single panoramic view.

David Marcou is a free-lance photographer and writer who frequently photographs politicians and other celebrities.

Waagenaar, who lives in Breda in the Netherlands, has been an enthusiastic fan of the Cajun music of Louisiana and nearby regions. He has been visiting the United States to interview and photograph Cajun musicians of all ages and circumstances for over twenty years.

Washington, D.C. native Fernando Sandoval has documented the streets, entertainers, and events of his home town for decades.

Melody Golding spent a year photographing the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina and recovery efforts in her home state of Mississippi.

Covington makes stereoscopic (three-dimensional) images during his travels. Shown here is his untitled portfolio of these images, complete with viewing glasses, and two prints from the group.

The husband-wife team of Pat and Chuck Bress photographed renowned jazz musicians performing at two important Washington, D.C., night clubs in the late 1980s--Charlie’s Place, which closed years ago, and Blues Alley, still a significant venue for jazz.

Singer is a podiatrist who pursued a second career as a photographic artist, receiving notoriety in national magazines for his images of orchids. He has since turned his attention to guitars.

Jacobson photographed musical instrument makers across the United States for his project, “Heart and Hands: Musical Instrument Makers of America,” resulting in a book and a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition by the same title.

David Haberstich is the Curator of Photography at the Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Posted in Philanthropy