“Works in Color: Selections from the Haverford Fine Art Photography Collection”
February 7–March 9, 2014
Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Alcove Gallery, Magill Library
“Works in Color: Selections from the Haverford Fine Art Photography Collection,” on view at the Alcove Gallery in Magill Library until March 9, highlights color photography and its relationship to documentary practice. The exhibition was curated by Vita Litvak, Visiting Assistant Professor of Fine Arts and Haverford Class of 2002.
The earliest photograph on display is by Marion Post Wolcott, a Farm Security Administration photographer during the Great Depression. The piece dates back to 1939, and is of plantation workers fishing in Belzoni, Mississippi. The presence of color in this early photograph has a transformational effect on the subject matter. Whereas black and white images often have the effect of historicizing and abstracting the depicted events, color photography relates the past moment with great immediacy and realism.
The search for reproducing natural color in photography began at the dawn of the medium’s invention in 1839. It took another seventy years for the first commercially successful color photography process to emerge, when the Lumiere brothers introduced the Autochrome in 1907. In the absence of chemical color photography, colorizing photographs by hand with the aid of pigments was a common practice. In 1855, building on the theories of additive color developed by Thomas Young and refined by Hermann von Helmholtz, the Scottish physicist, James Clerk Maxwell published a paper detailing his theory on color perception by the human eye. He asserted that the eye sees color mostly through the stimulation of three different types of cone cells that are receptive to the red, blue and green spectrum of light. The idea of a three-color method, put forward by Maxwell’s hypothesis is the foundation for the majority of photographic color processes today.
By the 1940’s, with the introduction of Kodochrome and Echtachrome film by Kodak, color photography became more widely accessible to the general public. The alluring qualities of color made the medium extremely popular as it quickly spread throughout the commercial arena. However, it was not until the 1970s that the medium was fully accepted by the fine art photography world. William Eggleston’s first solo show and color photography exhibit was mounted at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976.
The Haverford Fine Art Photography Collection represents works by pioneers of color photography Joel Sternfeld and Stephen Shore, who pushed the boundaries of documentary photography and ushered in the use of color photography by artists in the 70s. Along with Nan Goldin and David Graham, the works on view also include contemporary photographers Marion Belanger, Deana Lawson, Scott Conarroe, Orit Siman-Tov, and Shane Lavalette. Exploring the world through a lens based photographic practice their works build on a rich and influential tradition of color photography.
The Fine Art Photography Collection has been supported through generous gifts from friends of Haverford College and the curatorial work of William Earle Williams, the Audrey A. and John L. Dusseau Professor of Humanities, Professor of Fine Arts and Curator of Photography.