Established as an independent curatorial department in 1992, the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Photographs houses a collection of more than twenty-five thousand works spanning the history of photography from its invention in the 1830s to the present. Among the treasures from the early years of the medium are a rare album of photographs by William Henry Fox Talbot made just months after he presented his invention to the public; a large collection of portrait daguerreotypes by the Boston firm of Southworth and Hawes; landscape photographs of the American West by Timothy O'Sullivan and Carleton Watkins; and fine examples of French photography from the 1850s by Edouard Baldus, Charles Nègre, Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, Nadar, and others.
Posted: Friday, August 29, 2014
Garry Winogrand constantly contemplated and experimented with society's notions of beauty, especially its views on women. He once said that the reason we photograph is "to learn who we are and how we feel." I think his photographs are less about the subject and more about the society that surrounds them. Women, from the moment they step out of their houses, are expected to maintain a certain standard of self-presentation and appearance. Winogrand photographed women who were in this "presentable" state but shot them candidly, not posed. He took away the subject's ability to consciously present herself, capturing the space between her inner, subconscious beauty and societal preconceptions of it.
Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014
I consider Garry Winogrand's photographs found in the current exhibition of his work to be a collection of perfect mistakes. "Perfect" because, even though the subject is often not posing or even looking straight at the camera, there is something about the picture that makes it incredibly engaging. The very same picture can simultaneously feel like a "mistake," however, since it may capture people who are either unaware they are being photographed or are unhappy about it. In some cases, it feels to me like Winogrand accidentally pressed the shutter button. Normally people have to pose or look at the camera in order for a photograph to be considered successful, but Winogrand instead intended to capture these unguarded people and moments.
Posted: Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Garry Winogrand's street photography, currently on view in an eponymous exhibition at the Museum, is often astonishingly candid and real. But would he have been able to use his distinct style today? The Internet has made it easier than ever to share photos and spread them around. But it's also made people far more self-conscious when being photographed and, dare I say, more frightened of the camera.
Posted: Friday, August 15, 2014
Today, with the special features on DSLRs, you can get a good shot even in difficult lighting environments. You can also use Photoshop and special effects to alter photographs after they've been taken. But imagine a time in which photo editing was not as common and photography was not as easy to do as it is today.
Posted: Friday, August 8, 2014
In the words of Garry Winogrand, subject of the current exhibition bearing his name, "If you didn't take the picture, you weren't there." Today, when most people hear a bizarre story, they want to have some sort of evidence, like a photograph. They want to see whatever happened with their own eyes. Winogrand upends this scenario. Instead, he simply provides the proof, and denies the audience the story behind it.
Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2014
It's a human tendency to take apart what's put in front of us. But more importantly, we have a selfish desire to connect a piece of artwork to our lives in some way. We may feel almost dead if we are unable to connect the artwork to some greater philosophical idea that we believe to be present. While there is nothing wrong with that process, the artist may not agree with your interpretation, as the work may in fact have no underlying meaning. The artist may have simply created the piece because of its aesthetics.
Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Known as the "City of Light" and the "City of Love," Paris is the world-renowned capital of romance. Its wide boulevards and enchanting architecture have captured the hearts and imaginations of artists, writers, and architects for centuries. But you don't have to get on a plane to enjoy the delightful sights of this historic city; spend April in Paris right here at the Met with French works of art from the collection and special Paris-related exhibitions.
Posted: Friday, June 7, 2013
One of the first projects we undertook upon establishing the Thomas J. Watson Library's digitization initiative a few years ago was a collaboration with the Department of Photographs and its Joyce F. Menschel Photography Library.
Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Sometimes, in discrete moments of boredom-induced reflection, I begin to think about why certain things have survived from the past and others haven't. I wonder whether it is through sheer dumb luck that some artworks are preserved while others are lost, and whether the creators of the surviving works had any idea that their work would last for so long and be seen by so many eyes.
Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Photography was invented just twenty years before the American Civil War. In many ways the war—its documentation, its soldiers, its battlefields—was the arena of the camera's debut in America. "The medium of photography was very young at the time the war began but it quickly emerged into the medium it is today," says Jeff Rosenheim, curator of the current exhibition Photography and the American Civil War (on view through September 2), and author of its accompanying catalogue. "I think that we are where we are in photographic history, in cultural history, because of what happened during the Civil War . . . it's the crucible of American history. The war changed the idea of what individual freedom meant; we abolished slavery, we unified our country, we did all those things, but with some really interesting new tools, one of which was photography."