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Close to Home: An American Album



Featured are anonymous personal photographs
as well as family portraits by well-known artists

Close to Home: An American Album
At the Getty Center, October 12, 2004—January 16, 2005

Los Angeles—The family photograph, an integral part of every American household, is a valued chronicle of personal and community history. The new exhibition Close to Home: An American Album, at the Getty Center from October 12, 2004 to January 16, 2005, gathers snapshots taken by families from across the country, offering a journey down the memory lane of American social experience.

Close to Home: An American Album continues the 20th-anniversary celebration of the Getty's department of photographs. The exhibition features nearly 200 black-and-white and color photographs made between 1930 and the mid-1960s, as well as several early examples of family portraiture from the mid-1800s. Works by well-known photographers, such as Thomas Eakins, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Dorothea Lange, drawn from the Getty's strong collection of photographs, are displayed alongside more than 120 family snapshots by untrained makers. Many of these personal pictures were found by collectors and purchased over the years in open-air markets.

Included in the exhibition are 25 fine-art prints made by Guy Stricherz, with his wife Irene Malli, from old Kodachrome slides, those vibrant 35-millimeter cardboard-mounted transparencies that were popular in the post-World War II era. Stricherz became intrigued with the medium when he received a slide of his family taken in 1952 and was astonished by the well-preserved color and vivid depiction of a nearly forgotten time. Beginning in the mid-'80s, he placed an open call in hundreds of small-town newspapers across the United States requesting old family transparencies made between 1945 and 1965. This search became a 14-year project, attracting 100,000 responses. Stricherz and his associates transformed the slides selected into 16-by-20 inch dye transfer prints in a tribute to the genius of photographs as a tool for recording the American experience.

Family snapshots commemorate an occasion, capture a moment, or secure a memory, and mark important milestones in the timeline of the American experience, from single life filled with friends and relationships to marriage and family. In the exhibition, we see photographs of couples and groups of friends, parents holding babies, children at play, women in pretty dresses, families on vacation or at home, and people with their prized possessions, including cars, television sets, and pets. The images are all strangely familiar, imparting a sense of empathy and shared memory, even to those who never knew the subjects featured in the photographs.

The timelessness of a good family snapshot lies in the degree to which the private and personal experiences portrayed are elevated to the lyrical and universal. Although usually taken by an untrained eye, and often violating rules of good design and composition, family snapshots can succeed brilliantly because they are the product of pure instinct and because they represent endlessly fascinating combinations and variations on everyday life.

One of the most democratic of all art forms, photography has become "the chief visual instrument of social memory," writes Weston Naef, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, in the book that accompanies the exhibition. While in the past only the rich could afford portraits, now anyone can have pictures of their family. The photographs on exhibit in Close to Home are precious because of their commonality and the shared human experience they illustrate.

Accompanying the exhibition will be the publication Close to Home: An American Album, with essays and more than 100 photographs from the show. The book will be available in mid-October. At the same time, a special exhibition Web site on will launch, featuring one of the largest displays of family photographs on the Web. The public will be invited to send in their personal snapshots for this special online photo album.

The works featured in Close to Home: An American Album that are promised gifts to the Getty come from the private collections of Bruce and Nancy Berman, Sharon and Michael Blasgen, and Jane and Michael Wilson. They will expand and enrich the Getty's photographs collection, which was established in 1984.

A special online photo album will be featured in the Close to Home: An American Album exhibition site that will launch on in mid-October 2004. The public will be invited to submit their family snapshots to create one of the largest online exhibitions of family pictures on the Web. The site will also feature additional information about the artists and images on view.

Close to Home: An American Album

Introductory essays by D.J. Waldie and Weston Naef
More than 100 found images by anonymous photographers and a selection of vibrant color images from the 1940s through the 1960s reprinted by contemporary artist Guy Stricherz create an unpretentious portrait of suburban American life.
Getty Publications. 128 pages. Paperback: $24.95. Publication date: mid-October.
Available at the Getty Bookstore, by calling 800-223-3431, or online at

A range of related events will be offered to accompany the exhibition, including lectures, talks, and performances. Please see "Related Events and Publications" release for more information, or check the calendar on for updates.

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* Note to editors: images available on request.


John Giurini
Getty Communications Dept.

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Grant Program. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs are based at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

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