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Library Exhibition “In Focus: Photography from Daguerrotype to Digital”
The University of Delaware Library will host a new exhibition, “In Focus: Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital,” from January 29 through June 16 in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery on the second floor of the Morris Library.
“In Focus: Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital” will reflect the technological evolution of photographic processes from 1839 until the present, at the same time presenting themes of photography as an indelible artistic, documentary, social, scientific and educational force since its inception.
Photography was once touted as the most democratic art form. The early availability of prints, the affordability of cameras, and a user-friendly developing process allowed both the specialist and the amateur not only to consume photographs but also to quickly produce them.
The emergence of digital photography is yet one more step in the technological evolution of photographic reproduction — and the ease of taking, reproducing and manipulating photographs is more apparent than ever.
Now, the rapid transition to digital photography and the exponential access to digital imaging prompt a new appreciation of the traditional methods of photography, which quickly have become historic processes.
Photographs printed with early transfer and negative/positive film processes increasingly have become rare artifacts with vulnerable physical properties, and photography once again stands at a familiar crossroads between technology, accessibility, history and art.
The exhibition will feature a rich array of books, trade and technical catalogs, original photographs from manuscript and image collections, as well as images from the University Library’s growing digital collections.
“In Focus” is organized around several themes:
• A historical overview of the technology and advances in photographic processes from daguerreotypes to digital images.
• The emergence of photography as an art form, from Pictorialism and early photography salons to portraiture to contemporary use by book artists.
• The applications of photography in the sciences, from the detailed study of nature to geographic surveys of landscape to representation of the engineered environment.
• The reflection of social aspects of life as captured through travel, vacations, and family activities in both formal and informal gatherings.
• The importance of photography as part of the historical record since the mid-19th century.
Printed material related to photography in Special Collections includes important rare publications such as [Alexander] “Gardner's photographic sketch book of the Civil War” (1865) and Edward S. Curtis’ “The North American Indian” (1907-1930).
Colorful advertising ephemera from Kodak, Graflex and other firms as well as salon catalogs and exhibit programs such as “Pictorial landscape photography by the Photo-pictorialists of Buffalo” (1921) are from the extensive photography collection of the late William I. Homer, H. Rodney Sharp Professor Emeritus of Art History.
The exhibition features several titles with Delaware connections: Under sea with helmet and camera: experiences of an amateur by A. Felix Du Pont (with photographs taken by the author, 1940); Crawford Greenewalt “Hummingbirds” (1960), which advanced the study of the author’s subject with the use of high-speed photography; and “The Heart sees better than the eye” (2000), which represents the photographic legacy of the late University of Delaware photographer Robert I. Cohen.
“In Focus” will include a number of original portraits by celebrated photographers such as Yousuf Karsh, Berenice Abbott, Cherie Nutting, Karl Bissinger, Christopher Felver, Allen Ginsberg and Cecil Beaton.
The exhibition will also feature extraordinary specimens of nearly every type of photography — daguerreotypes, albumen prints, cyanotypes and more — drawn from manuscript collections such as the Shipley-Bringhurst-Hargraves family papers, the George Handy Bates Samoan papers, the James Maxwell papers, the G. Burton Pearson Jr. papers, the Willard Stewart WPA and HABS photographs collection, Paul W. Knauf Jr. World War II photograph collection, the William I. Homer papers and many other collections.
The scheduling of “In Focus: Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital” coincides with another important UD photography exhibition, “Gertrude Käsebier: The Complexity of Light and Shade,” which will be on view in the Main Gallery of the Old College Gallery from Feb. 6 through June 28, with a special symposium to be held in March.
Outside of the Library of Congress, University of Delaware holds the second largest collection of Käsebier’s photographs in the world.
Käsebier was among the most important American pictorialist photographers and a founding member of Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession. Information about the Old College exhibition and related symposium is available online at the University Museums website and on UDaily.
The Morris Library exhibition “In Focus: Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital” is curated and designed by Maureen Cech, assistant librarian in the Manuscripts and Archives Department, and L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin, librarian and head of the Manuscripts and Archives Department and curator of the Joseph R. Biden Jr. senatorial papers.
Assistance with installation of the physical and online exhibition was provided by Anita Wellner, library assistant III in the Manuscripts and Archives Department, and Laurie Rizzo, assistant librarian in the Special Collections Department.
The exhibition will be available online.
Access to selected digital collections of photographs from manuscript and archival collections at the University of Delaware Library may also be viewed online.
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