Joel Meyerowitz, American
Image: 15 3/8 × 23 5/8 inches (39 × 60 cm) Sheet: 19 7/8 × 25 1/8 inches (50.5 × 63.8 cm)
Purchased with the Contemporary Photography Exhibition Fund, 1977
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This exhibition presents a rare look at more than fifty photographs from the Museum’s collection by several of the most dedicated early practitioners of color photography: Eliot Porter, William Christenberry, Joel Meyerowitz, and William Eggleston. Porter was in the vanguard, switching to color in the early 1950s, years before other artists really began experimenting with the medium in the late 1960s and 1970s. Their work was startling and revolutionary at a time when the carefully composed, meticulously printed black-and-white photograph was the standard. Elder statesmen of photography such as Walker Evans and Edward Steichen initially described color photographs as lurid and vulgar, while others associated them unfavorably with commercial photography, amateur snapshots, or popular movies.
The unexalted subject matter chosen by these color mavericks also posed a challenge to viewers, as seen here in the photograph of a dinner table. Southerner William Eggleston photographed the beauty he saw in pedestrian subjects across Tennessee and Mississippi, including a tricycle, a hooded jacket, and a ceiling painted red. His 1976 solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York signaled a breakthrough in the acceptance of color photography, and his concurrent publication William Eggleston’s Guide remains an important touchstone for students of color.
Also in the exhibition are single examples from the 1970s by color pioneers Harry Callahan, David Graham, William Larson, Lucas Samaras, and Stephen Shore.
CuratorKatherine Ware • Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center