May 1, 2021 – August 7, 2021
Americans embraced photography in the mid-19th century; 150 years, and countless millions of photographs later, their fervor has not diminished. It is hard to imagine an aspect of 20th- century American life, whether personal or political, intellectual or commercial, that photography has not influenced.
The exhibition examines photography in America from the 1880s through the 1980s, with an emphasis on the first decades of the twentieth century, when the medium was changing rapidly. Themes such as portraiture, landscape, cityscape, still life, motion capture, and cultural history dramatically represent America over this hundred-year period.
The selection features an impressive range of works by some of the most important artists in the history of photography, including Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, and others.
Notable examples from the late 19th and early 20th century Pictorialism movement, which sought to elevate the status of photography to a fine art, are featured. Included are photographs made during the Great Depression to call attention to the challenges of rural poverty. The exhibition also emphasizes the experimental nature and evolution of photographic techniques in the 20th century and the subtle surfaces of prints developed in the darkroom.
Many of the twenty-four works are vintage prints – made by the photographer very close to the time the negative was made – or late prints, made by the photographer or an assistant years later.
Masters of American Photography is a special exhibition organized by the Reading Public Museum featuring works from the Reading’s permanent collection.