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New Orleans Museum of Art Opens Residents and Visitors: Twentieth Century Photographs of Louisiana

Residents and Visitors: Twentieth-Century Photographs of Louisiana is the eighth collaborative exhibition drawn from the collections of the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC), and the first to be based solely on institutional photographic holdings. The series of exhibitions began after Hurricane Katrina, and has examined thematic common ground of the fine arts collections of these two museums. Curators for this exhibition are E. John Bullard (NOMA), and John H. Lawrence and Jude Solomon (THNOC). Open September 29, 2010 – February 13, 2011.

With over one hundred examples by dozens of photographers on view, the exhibition offers not only glimpses of Louisiana and its people throughout the twentieth century—primarily in and around New Orleans—but also hints at the depth and breadth of each museum’s photography collection. Yet, with an incalculable number of photographs as part of Louisiana’s twentieth-century visual history, no exhibition of a hundred pictures can present itself as comprehensive. What can be put forth is a credible and honest attempt to represent many fine image makers falling within those dates, with the knowledge that some important images and photographers will still be left out.

Curators’ biases (particular to this exhibition and in general, as the canon of photographic history is rethought) are also considerations in viewing Residents and Visitors. Other variables in the mix are selections based on quality and condition, and whether to present typical or unusual works by a photographer.

The premise for the exhibition, photographs made by those who live or lived in Louisiana for their professional lives and those made by men and women just passing through, might seem to portend pictures splitting along certain lines. One might wonder how those who spend relative moments of time in a place hope to make pictures as thoughtful as those photographers steeped for decades in the culture, the architecture, the humidity of Louisiana. A short answer might be that the visitors’ pictures are meaningful and thoughtful in ways that suit photographers rather than an art-viewing public, or the specifics of geography. The inability to offer a neatly packaged answer is part of the question’s mystery and attraction, and central to this exhibition.

Image: Diane Arbus, “Lady bartender at home with a souvenir dog, New Orleans, 1964.” Copyright Estate of Diane Arbus

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