Photography exhibit extended through Oct. 25
— Photographers have been witness to some of the most iconic moments throughout history. A number of these images are sure to leave a powerful impression on viewers in the Akron Art Museum’s exhibit “Proof: Photographs from the Collection,” which has been extended through Oct. 25.
The show features striking photos dating from the Civil War through the present and celebrates the Museum’s vast collection of photos, some obtained by commission.
“We wanted to do something big and really show off the collection,” says Arnie Tunstall, the Museum’s collections manager, who took on the daunting task of sorting through the Museum’s 3,000 photos to curate this show. He adds that over half of the collection at the Art Museum is photographs.
“Still images have a power often that video or film does not in that it allows you to study an image and look at it for decades,” he says. “Some still have power.” These photos often provoke visceral reactions, like the picture of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald.
As Tunstall sifted through all of the Museum’s photos, four general themes emerged for what would become this exhibit: A Fleeting Glimpse, or street photography, usually when a photographer steps into a public space; The Eye Witness, or photo journalism capturing historic moments, usually as part of an assignment; The Human Condition, or stories that shine a light on social issues and marginalized populations; and A Sense of Place, which features landscape photography, some of it commissioned by the Museum, like Lee Friedlander’s Rust Belt photos and Robert Glenn Ketchum’s photos of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, taken in the late 80s (and then known as the Cuyahoga Valley Recreation Center).
Another vivid standout in A Sense of Place is a wall collage made with photos by Jennifer Williams, who then applied the prints directly to the wall of the exhibit, which becomes more physically interwoven into the space.
“Any tool in the hand of a good artist can be used, but not every person holding a camera is a great photographer, and this exhibition really shows brilliant masterworks done by photographers over 150 years,” Tunstall says.
Some of the themes brought about unexpected results. For example, Tunstall initially set about to curate The Eye Witness section based on war photography, but he noticed the same feeling emerging from images of the Civil Rights era. “The Eye Witness really talks about an artist who is capable of putting themselves in a situation and capturing a moment with a still image that speaks to a much grander story: like an image of young people being blasted by a firehose in a civil rights struggle.”
“Proof” also features classic documentary images by noted photographers Walker Evans, Lewis Hine and Weegee. Also featured is Andy Warhol, who, with his fascination with Polaroids, predated Instagram, Facebook and other instantaneous means of obtaining photos, but he would have fit in well with today’s cultural ecosystem in which borrowing is acceptable.
“Proof” runs through Oct. 25. A related panel discussion titled “Reality and Fiction” will take place at the Akron Art Museum Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m.
The Akron Art Museum is located at One South High St. Visit www.akronartmuseum.org for more info.