George Eastman House--A Fascinating Collection
If you are a typical Shutterbug
reader you have a keen interest in all aspects of photography including
the history of images and cameras, still and motion picture. If that's
the case, then a day or two visit at this interesting location in upstate
New York would have you drooling like the proverbial kid in a candy
store. The exhibit halls are crammed full of displays of early and current
cameras and the images produced by them. One of several current exhibits
actually combines specific historical cameras along with the memorable
image they produced. This is a novel and different approach that I have
never heard of or seen before in many decades of looking at photography
exhibits all over the country and overseas.
The Eventful Camera Exhibit. This interesting exhibit joins photographs with the cameras that captured the image along with other materials from the huge George Eastman House collection. It is on display through early February 2000. The title and idea for this unique exhibit was proposed over 40 years ago by Beaumont Newhall, Eastman House's first curator. He envisioned a display including cameras used by eminent photographers, cinematographers, and innovators that were actually used to record significant events. That is, cameras that "have a story with them." The current exhibit takes his idea and expands on it by showing the interrelationship of the museum's extensive individual collections, linking the equipment along with photographs and other artifacts of the era when they were used.
James A. Conlin, registrar,
who works with the extensive collections every day, curated this exhibit.
This was the first time a registrar put together an exhibition at George
Eastman House. The cameras were used as a point of departure for combining
with other artifacts and images from the various collections making a
comprehensive overview of 104 monumental years of photography and cinematography.
It is laid out chronologically from a daguerreotype outfit sold in 1840
to the raising of Old Glory at Iwo Jima in 1944. Included are more than
20 cameras and 60 photographs from names that are synonymous with memorable
Mathew Brady's Civil
War era portraits of Generals Custer and Ulysses S. Grant are shown by
his Sliding Box Plate camera of 1860. Early motion pictures are represented
by Billy Bitzer's Mutograph 35mm motion picture camera (1898) that
was used to film Birth of a Nation in 1915 starring Mary Pickford. In
fact, her signature can be seen in the wood on the top of the camera.
Displayed nearby are publicity stills of this historical film. One of
Alfred Stieglitz's cameras and lens are shown with photos he took
of Georgia O'Keeffe. You better appreciate the simplicity of easily
making full color photographs by just clicking a shutter today when you
see the bulky one-shot color camera that exposed three 9x12cm plates at
once. This was what was needed in the 1930s to make color portraits of
movie stars Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, and Elizabeth Taylor. One
of the most famous images of WWII was that of Old Glory being raised at
Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, near it is the 4x5 Speed Graphic that Joe Rosenthal
used to make the picture.
Therese Mulligan curator of
photography at George Eastman House arranged these images on view in six
categories. "All Things Under the Sun" shows how photography
has the capacity to create a universal collection of things both familiar
and unknown. It surveys photographs past and present of curiosities, inventions,
and discoveries that stimulate the imagination. "An Art of Its Own"
expands on how photographers through the years have attempted to raise
the status of the medium to that of other visual arts.
Expanded Archival Facility.
Until 10 years ago most of the exhibition and storage area was
located in several above ground additions at the rear and inside of George
Eastman's turn-of-the-century mansion just east of downtown Rochester,
New York. Storage conditions then were deplorable, often musty since there
was no temperature or humidity control which was needed to properly preserve
the priceless artifacts.
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