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Composites: Sailors, Philadelphia, 1964

Ray K. Metzker, American, 1931 - 2014

Photograph taken in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Gelatin silver prints

Each: 1 3/4 × 1 3/4 inches (4.5 × 4.5 cm) Image (overall): 12 3/4 × 12 13/16 inches (32.4 × 32.6 cm) Mount: 30 × 22 1/16 inches (76.2 × 56.1 cm)

Courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Contemporary Photography Exhibition Fund, the Alfred Stieglitz Center Restricted Fund, and the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1977

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    A Philadelphia artist of national import, Ray K. Metzker is one of contemporary photography’s most innovative masters. Marking his initial experiment with serial and multiframe photography, this work comprises forty-nine diminutive prints of sailors, mounted together on a square grid. The amalgamation of multiple photographs and the gradations of light created by their juxtapositions exemplify Metzker’s broad experimentation with the medium. While he went on to create additional works for his series Composites: Philadelphia, he produced only one featuring images of sailors, thus making the Museum the sole institution to possess his first composite. Nora S. Lambert, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 366.

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Ray K. Metzker, a Philadelphian since 1962, is one of the great contemporary experimenters with form and aesthetics in photography. Composites: Philadelphia, of 1964, is the first of a series in which he explores the synthesis of multiple visual elements expanded beyond the single-frame photograph. This work is made from forty-nine two-by-two-inch prints of sailors, printed to different densities, that are mounted in a square grid to form a graphic pattern of receding and advancing darks and lights, like a coded message of signal flags. The composition resonates with references to the photographic studies of sequential motion carried out in the late nineteenth century in Philadelphia by Eadweard Muybridge and Thomas Eakins, a legacy that has provided a rich vein of inspiration for Metzker. Many other photographers have in turn been inspired by Metzker's translation of these scientific experiments into works of art. Martha Chahroudi, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 248.

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