"A History of Photography" Exhibit at George Eastman House

George Eastman House has dedicated its new History of Photography Gallery to rotating installations that trace photography's historical path to the present through photographs and cameras from the museum's collection. The photographs in the gallery will change approximately three times a year and the cameras once a year, continually refreshing the experience of visiting George Eastman House and offering regular opportunities to view the museum's treasures.

Edward Steichen (American, b. Luxembourg, 1879–1973). Gloria Swanson, 1924. Gelatin silver print. George Eastman House. Bequest of Edward Steichen under the direction Joanna T. Steichen.
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The first installation of photographs, selected by Lisa Hostetler, curator-in-charge of the Department of Photography, and cameras, selected by Todd Gustavson, technology curator, opened this month. This installation traces photography's complex relationship to both art and information as the medium developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

"By demonstrating the material and aesthetic choices photographers have made for over a century and a half, the photographs I've chosen for this installation illustrate the tremendous flexibility of the medium," said Hostetler. "At the same time, the iconic nature of many of the images suggests the indelible impact photography has had on our understanding of human vision and creativity."

The George Eastman House photography collection is among the best and most comprehensive in the world, with holdings that include objects ranging in date from the announcement of the medium's invention in 1839 to the present day. Works by renowned masters of the medium exist side-by-side with vernacular and scientific photographs. The collection also includes all applications of the medium, from artistic pursuit to commercial enterprise and from amateur pastime to documentary record, as well as all types of photographic processes, from daguerreotypes to digital prints.

"Having this dedicated space to showcase our technology and photo collections will elevate the experience of our visitors and allows us the opportunity to celebrate the milestones of photography," said Gustavson. "For example, in honor of the 175th anniversary of the announcement of photography, we have a complete example of the Giroux daguerreotype apparatus, the world's first commercially manufactured camera, on display as part of this new exhibition."

The technology collection at George Eastman House is one of the world's largest collections of photographic and cinematographic equipment. It contains nineteenth- and twentieth-century objects of photographic technology, including cameras, processing equipment, motion picture devices, and a broad range of early historical accessories. Many of the objects are unique, representing distinguished historical ownership and significant scientific achievement. This collection is the most comprehensive held by any institution in North America and equaled in overall quality by only three other major holdings worldwide. From devices that predate the formal invention of photography in 1839 to the most modern state-of-the-art instruments used by both amateurs and professionals, the collection offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to examine and learn about photographic technology.

The inaugural exhibition in the History of Photography and is dedicated to the late Philip L. Condax. Condax served as the curator of technology at George Eastman House from 1971 to 1994. In 1980, he helped to curate Selections from the Spira Collection: An Exhibition at George Eastman House, which was the first time George Eastman House hosted an exhibition with objects from outside of its own collection.

For more information about the History of Photography exhibition series, visit eastmanhouse.org or call (585) 271-3361.