The Davis Museum at Wellesley College presents A Generous Medium. Photography at Wellesley 1972–2012

. September 5, 2012 . 0 Comments

The Davis Museum at Wellesley College presents “A Generous Medium: Photography at Wellesley 1972-2012,” a landmark exhibition tracing the evolution of the Davis photography collection through the many people who have influenced its course. On view September 12 through December 16, 2012 in the Bronfman and Chandler Galleries, the exhibition will be free and open to the public.

James Casebere, “Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) # 10,” 2011, color digital photograph mounted on Dibond image, Museum purchase with funds provided by Wellesley College Friends of Art

Mined from the extensive photographic holdings, this innovative exhibition features works selected for interpretation by more than sixty participants—Davis directors and curators, Wellesley faculty, alumnae in the field, and major donors—all of whom have had an instrumental role in the shape and pedagogical use of the collection over the last forty years. The selections are organized unconventionally, by date of acquisition, which allows for serendipitous and revealing juxtapositions, surprising connections and startling revelations.

The exhibition and the accompanying catalogue feature an eloquent range of pictures, from anonymous early photographs to works by renowned contemporary artists. This diversity reflects the impassioned engagement of innumerable contributors over time, and the aspirational ambitions and exuberant inventiveness of the photographic project at Wellesley writ large.

From William Henry Fox Talbot’s Oriel Window at Lacock Abbey, (a print from one of the oldest photographic negatives in existence) to the contemporary works of Cindy Sherman and James Casebere (acquired to celebrate this major exhibition), photographs by some of history’s most iconic image makers–Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Eugène Atget, Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Gertrude Käsebier, André Kertész, Danny Lyon, Susan Meiselas, Laura McPhee, Abelardo Morell, Nicholas Nixon, Lorraine O’Grady, Edward Ruscha, Fazal Sheikh, Jem Southam, Carrie Mae Weems, Edward Weston, Garry Winogrand, and more–will be on view.

With a wide range of techniques represented, the collection tells the story of photography over nearly two centuries, helping us understand why and how images are made and the important role the medium has had in shaping visual culture.

“With this exhibition, the Davis honors and investigates the extraordinary legacy of collecting and pedagogical leadership in photography at Wellesley College,” stated Lisa Fischman, the Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis Museum. “It is exciting to see rarely viewed photographs, consider the works in our collection from different perspectives, and reconnect colleagues in the process.”

The project draws inspiration from the historic “Photography within the Humanities” initiative of 1975–77, conceived by former Wellesley faculty members Eugenia Parry and Wendy Snyder MacNeil. Visitors from the national photographic community chose photographs that culminated in an exhibition organized by former museum director Ann Gabhart.

Curated by Lucy Flint, with Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis Museum, and Hannah Townsend ’11, A Generous Medium: Photography at Wellesley 1972–2012 has been realized with major funding from The J. Paul Getty Trust.

Additional funding has been provided through the generous support of the Judith Blough Wentz ’57 Museum Programs Fund, an endowed fund established by an anonymous alumna donor ’70, and Wellesley College Friends of Art.

The exhibition catalogue has been made possible by gifts from Rosamond Brown Vaule ’59 and Tucker Ayers Harris ’59 in celebration of their 50th reunion and their life-long friendship; and through the visionary generosity of Linda Wyatt Gruber ’66.


Opening Celebration
Wednesday, September 12 | 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm | Davis Lobby and Galleries
Join us to celebrate this innovative exhibition and the remarkable collection that it honors.

Keynote Address – Spitting in the Mirror
Eugenia Parry
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm | Collins Cinema

Former professor of art at Wellesley College, Eugenia Parry has published and lectured widely on the histories of art and photography. Her numerous awards include a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in creative nonfiction. Parry is known for her imaginative texts on the creative processes of artists. Besides pioneering studies of mid-nineteenth-century photography, of photographers and of impressionists, her essays have appeared in books on many contemporaries, from Joel Peter Witkin to Georgia O’Keeffe. Her meta-fictional Crime Album Stories (2000) received the International Center for Photography’s “Infinity” Award for writing on photography. She is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of New Mexico.

6:30 pm – 8:00 pm | Davis Lobby and Galleries

Alex Brown: The Pop Up Photo Booth
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm | Davis Plaza
Photographer Alex Brown was born in Hong Kong, raised in London, and currently lives in New York. His work has been featured in major publications, including Elle, Vice, Soma, Sla,m and Trace. To celebrate the opening of A Generous Medium, Brown brings his most recent project — a tented photo booth in which he conducts five-minute portrait sessions — to the Davis.

Teacher Workshop
Thursday, September 14 | 4:00 pm | Davis Lobby and Galleries

With the generous support of the Palley Endowment Fund, the Davis offers a workshop led by exhibition curators, offering area educators an opportunity to participate in an intensive investigation of A Generous Medium.

Family Day at the Davis: Pictures in the Plaza!
Saturday, September 29 | 11:00 am – 1:00 pm | Davis Lobby and Galleries

Inspired by A Generous Medium, this Family Day invites visitors of all ages to consider the fun of snapshot portraits and the stories they tell. If a picture is worth a thousand words…what does yours say? Photo games, a scavenger hunt, and light refreshments round out the day.

Panel Discussion: The Critical Eye: Photography Now
Wednesday, October 24 | 4:30 pm Reception | 5:30 pm Panel
Newhouse Center for the Humanities

The Newhouse Center for the Humanities invites a panel of scholars to discuss critical responses to the state of photography today. Featuring Joel Snyder, Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago, and WJT Mitchell, Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago, with Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis, and Patricia Berman, Chair of the Art Department and Theodora L. & Stanley S. Feldberg Professor of Art, this panel considers the pressing questions and challenges that circulate around photography as a medium within broader humanistic discussions of contemporary visual culture. What are photographers doing now? What compels today’s scholars, critics, and curators? Snyder and Mitchell are co-editors of Critical Inquiry, a journal devoted to the study of art, culture, and politics, and have published extensively on photography, visual culture, and narrative.

Film Series: Cinephile Sundays

In partnership with the Cinema and Media Studies program, the Davis invites prominent photographers with work on view in A Generous Medium to participate in an unusual and exciting Sunday series—bringing their photographic perspective into a trans-medial context. Each artist—Abelardo Morell, Susan Meiselas, and Laura McPhee—has selected a film, will introduce the screening, and manage a lively Q&A.

Susan Meiselas on Pictures from a Revolution (dir. Meiselas, 1991)
Sunday, September 23 | 3 pm | Collins Cinema

Abelardo Morell on Vertigo (dir. Hitchcock, 1958)
Sunday, November 4 | 3 pm | Collins Cinema

Laura McPhee on The Searchers (dir. John Ford, 1956)
Sunday, December 9 | 3 pm | Collins Cinema

This series is generously supported by the Davis Museum Film Program Gift.


One of the oldest and most acclaimed academic fine arts museums in the United States, the Davis Museum is a vital force in the intellectual, pedagogical and social life of Wellesley College. It seeks to create an environment that encourages visual literacy, inspires new ideas, and fosters involvement with the arts both within the College and the larger community.


The Wellesley College arts curriculum and the highly acclaimed Davis Museum and Cultural Center are integral components of the College’s liberal arts education. Departments and programs from across the campus enliven the community with world-class programming– classical and popular music, visual arts, theatre, dance, author readings, symposia, and lectures by some of today’s leading artists and creative thinkers–most of which are free and open to the public.

Located just 12 miles from Boston and accessible by public transit, Wellesley College’s idyllic surroundings provide a nearby retreat for the senses and inspiration that lasts well after a visit.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,400 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 75 countries.


Location: Wellesley College, 106 Central St., Wellesley, Mass.
Museum Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11:00 am–5:00 pm, Wednesday until 8:00 pm, and Sunday, noon–4:00 pm. Closed Mondays, holidays, and Wellesley College recesses.
Admission is free and open to the public.
Telephone: 781-283-2051

Parking: Free and available in the lot behind the museum. Additional parking is available in the Davis Parking Facility.

Tours: Led by student tour guides and curators. Free. Call 781-283-3382
Accessible: The Davis, Collins Café and Collins Cinema are wheelchair accessible and wheelchairs are available for use in the Museum without charge. Special needs may be accommodated by contacting Director of Disability Services Jim Wice at 781-283-2434 or

Category: Museum News

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