The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection encompasses the work of photographers from Maine to California, and gives special emphasis to Western landscapes by acknowledged masters such as William Bell, W.H. Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan, Andrew Joseph Russell, Adam Clarke Vroman, and Carleton E. Watkins. Additional nineteenth-century holdings include recent acquisitions of masterworks such as William Henry Fox Talbot’s 1845 A Scene In York and several Henry Bosse cyanotypes from the album, Views on the Mississippi River. Collectively, the museum’s works of early photography reflect both the achievements of the medium’s outstanding practitioners and the shifting environmental attitudes of nineteenth century Americans.
European modernism is an additional strength of the photography collection, and one with significant affinity to artworks and other materials in the museum’s Herbert Bayer Archive. Important photographs by Bayer, Frantisek Drtikol, Jaromir Funke, Gyorgi Kepes, Man Ray, and others express the spirit of modernist vision and show the remarkable command of technique instilled through experiment. Works of American modernism by Berenice Abbott, Laura Gilpin, Edward Weston, and others show how similar approaches to light and form expressed in quite different responses.
Photographs in the collection from the second half of the twentieth century respond to changing perceptions and values, both in the art world and in the world at large. The museum’s substantial collection of Robert Adams photographs addresses environmental dilemmas in the American West through plain-spoken images of human-altered landscapes. Works by Diane Arbus and Larry Clark find dignity, frailty, and pathos in the marginalized. And the museum’s extensive holdings of Garry Winogrand photographs cull generous, humorous, and sometimes startling, stories from the chaos of everyday life in the streets.
Since 1970, photographers have frequently blurred the line between the medium and other artistic disciplines. The department has collected outstanding examples of contemporary photographic work to parallel the DAM’s modern and contemporary art collection. Works by artists such as Chuck Close, Petah Coyne, and Tom Friedman display the rich cross-fertilization that occurs when painters, sculptors and conceptual artists explore new ideas through photography. Other pieces, by David Levinthal, Cindy Sherman, and Lorna Simpson push the conventions of photography to new limits and expand our understanding of what the medium can be, while photographs by international artists, such as Shirin Neshat and Liu Wei exhibit the exchange of ideas that is possible in today’s universally connected world.