Featured are anonymous personal photographs as well as family portraits by well-known artists including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Dorothea Lange
Close to Home: An American Album at the Getty Center, October 12–January 16, 2005
July 1, 2004
Los Angeles—The family photograph, an integral part of every American household, is a valued chronicle of personal and community history and experience. 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 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. The exhibition is introduced with works from well-known photographers, such as Thomas Eakins, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Dorothea Lange, which have been drawn from the Getty's strong collection of photographs, and also includes 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. The exhibition also features 25 prints created by Guy Stricherz from Kodachrome transparencies that were recovered from attics, drawers, and closets across the country and sent to him in response to an open call for old color slides. Stricherz's works, as well as the large group of anonymous snapshots, are drawn from private collections that are promised gifts to the Getty's photographs collection.
Accompanying the exhibition will be the publication Close to Home: An American Album, which will feature more than 100 photographs from the exhibition. The book will be available in mid-October.
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. They document the process of personal growth and worldly experience, the cultivation of material desires and the accompanying pride of ownership. 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 of 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.
The exhibition also includes a special display of prints made by artist Guy Stricherz 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 Kodachrome 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 Kodachrome family slides made between 1945 and 1965. This search became a 14-year project. Out of the 100,000 responses he received, Stricherz and his associates selected 92 transparencies that he transformed into 16-by-20 inch dye transfer prints in a tribute to the genius of photographs as a tool for recording the American experience.
The works featured in the exhibition 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 photographs collection at the Getty, which was established in 1984. Close to Home: An American Album continues the 20th-anniversary celebration of the Getty's department of photographs. The Museum's world-class collection of photographs is featured in the current Premiere Presentation exhibition Photographers of Genius at the Getty, which closes on July 25, 2004.
Close to Home: An American Album
Introductory essays by D.J. Waldie and Weston Naef
This richly illustrated book, celebrating the most everyday of all photographs, the snapshot, features more than 100 images that have a remarkable power sometimes lacking in more formally composed shots.
Getty Publications. 128 pages. Paperback: $24.95. Publication date: mid-October.
Available at the Getty Bookstore, by calling 800-223-3431, or online at www.getty.edu.
A special Close to Home: An American Album exhibition site will launch on www.getty.edu in mid-October 2004 and will feature an online photo album. The public will be invited to submit their family snapshots for the album 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.
Note to editors: Images available on request.
Getty Communications Dept.
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