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, 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: 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."
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The Met is always interested in both new audiences and new perspectives. In 2009, we created an initiative called Spectrum to produce events that shed fresh light on our collections and exhibitions. Programs have included conversations with artists, a story-telling event co-hosted with The Moth, and live musical performances, all connected to the works of art in our galleries.
Posted: Wednesday, March 2, 2011
As a chemist in the Museum's Department of Scientific Research, I work closely with Anna Vila-Espuña, also in the Department of Scientific Research, and Nora Kennedy, in Photograph Conservation, on collaborations with Met curators to increase our understanding of methods and materials used to create paintings, works of art on paper, and photographs. This knowledge not only enlightens us about the artists' techniques, but it also aids in the care and preservation of the works.
Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2011
Developed in the early years of the twentieth century, Autochromes were the result of the first commercially viable color photographic process. Yet the dyes used to impart the color in Autochromes are so sensitive to light that typical exhibition conditions cause rapid and irreversible fading, which has led to the Metropolitan Museum's policy of not exhibiting these vulnerable photographs. As the Museum's research scholar in photograph conservation, I spent three years studying the stability of Autochrome dyes. I began my research with a desire to better understand how and under what conditions Autochromes fade and, ideally, to devise a safe way to exhibit these important photographs. The exciting culmination of my work will take place next week, January 25–30, when five original Autochromes by Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen will be displayed in low-oxygen enclosures as part of the special exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand.
Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Inside the museum—not just the Met but any art museum—photography has been birthed in hallways. It began to spring from the shoulders of museums' print departments in the 1920s and 1930s, when modernism was making a case for photography as an independent art form. Over the decades it has spread institutionally through the in-between spaces that architecturally mirror the medium's proudly mongrel status as both art and not art.
Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The current exhibition Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players: Leon Levinstein's New York Photographs, 1950–1980 features candid photographs of New Yorkers, with each of Levinstein's subjects representing a particular neighborhood. In the thirty years since these photographs were taken, New York City's neighborhoods have changed dramatically: new buildings have appeared, businesses have opened or closed, and a new generation has moved in. What would Levinstein see in the people of New York today?
Posted: Monday, March 22, 2010
Most often, our special exhibitions highlight important aspects of the Met's collection or explore areas of curatorial expertise, but occasionally they give us the chance, instead, to present a type of work that's entirely absent from the collection. Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage is one such instance.
Posted: Friday, February 5, 2010
A daguerreotype by Baron Jean-Baptiste Louis Gros—a work of extraordinary quality and rarity—has been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum. Both a depiction and a demonstration of what the medium was capable of at its high point in 1850s Paris, The Salon of Baron Gros shows the interior of a mid-nineteenth-century parlor believed to be that of the baron, with light streaming in from a window at left.