The Ruth Chandler Williamson
Gallery at Scripps College celebrated the opening of its new exhibition “Focus
on Photographys: Building Photograph Collections at Scripps” Oct. 26. The new collection presents a wide historical range of photography,
with work spanning from the 19th to 21st centuries. It features
famed photographers such as Ansel Adams, Julia Margaret Cameron, Marion Post
Wolcott, Barbara Morgan, Francis Frith, Doris Ullman, and Edward Weston.
According to Mary MacNaughton,
associate professor of art history at Scripps and director of the Williamson Gallery, the new exhibit is especially important as an educational resource for
classes across a wide range of disciplines, as it provides a diverse array of
research materials to students and scholars.
“Think of the Williamson Gallery as another kind of classroom, where
learning happens in new ways. Works in the exhibition ‘Focus on
Photographs’ combine art,
history, and technology, and the students and faculty who visit us come in
classes ranging from creative writing to photography,” MacNaughton said.
In addition to representing different time periods, the collection also represents different styles and techniques within photography, featuring salt prints, gelatin silver prints,
albumen-prints, ambrotype images, and images featured in photography books.
Moreover, the collection of eighty two images explores myriad subjects and
themes, from intimate portraits of nineteenth century celebrities—Mark Twain
and Sir John Herschel, to name a few—by Julia Margaret Cameron (1860s) to Marion
Post Wolcott’s documentary photographs of the Depression Era to Ansel Adams’ snapshots of
the American West, featuring the classic landscapes of Yosemite National Park.
The opening event began in the afternoon with a panel discussion
featuring the collectors and donors who helped coordinate and build the
collection. MacNaughton and Heather Waldroup, associate professor of art history at Appalachian
State University and guest curator of the exhibition, were the first to speak.
In her opening remarks,
Waldroup explained to the audience that Scripps’ new photography collection was
an introspective commentary on Scripps College as an educational institution.
The collection of art, according to theorists, exceeds the sum of its individual parts; indeed, it serves primarily to define the collector. Correspondingly, the exhibition ‘Focus on Photographs, Building a Collection at Scripps’ highlights the college’s substantial role in collecting, preserving and studying the history of photography in Southern California,” Waldroup said.
panel discussion consisted of six panelists who contributed to the collection
by either facilitating the acquisition of photographs or offering certain
photos from their own collections. Of the panelists, two were Scripps
professors: Juliet Koss, associate professor and chair of the art history department, and Ken Gonzales-Day, associate professor, chair of the art department, and featured photographer in the new exhibition.
Naef, Curator Emeritus at the J. Paul Getty Museum moderated the discussion, which
took place at Scripps’ Humanities Auditorium.
began the panel discussion by emphasizing the importance of the “Focus on
Photographs” exhibit, especially in the day of smart-phones and Google Search.
want to start with a little admonition to those of us who are pulling out our
cell phones, where we store our family pictures, our pictures of friends and
pets—it’s getting rarer and rarer to see the photograph itself, the real thing,” Naef said. “When you see the authentic item, the photograph itself, it’s like having a
piece of your great-aunt’s fudge in your mouth; it’s authentic. This exhibition
provides students with an opportunity to see the original work—to study them
and taste that bit of wonderful fudge.”
Naef continued the discussion by asking the respective
panelists to share their different roles in the collection process. Some talked
about their favorite photographs; others talked about their experiences in
seeking out certain photographs.
After the panel discussion, the gallery hosted a celebratory
reception, which featured live music.
In 2012, Scripps received a
“Museum Set” of 21 Ansel Adams photographs from the Virginia Best
Adams Trust, a foundation created by the late photographer’s wife. The gift was facilitated by Michael Whalen, a Scripps parent and photography collector. Some
of these photographs, all of which are in prime condition, are on display at
the Williamson Gallery.
Photographs: Building Photograph Collections at Scripps” runs through Dec.
15 and is open to the public.