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Recollection: Thirty Years of Photography at The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library’s Photography Collection is celebrated with Recollection: Thirty Years of Photography at The New York Public Library, a multi-media exhibition featuring the work of over 90 prominent photographers, including Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kertész, Duane Michals, August Sander, Cindy Sherman, and Willam Wegman.

On view September 29, 2010 through January 2, 20119, Recollection shares work from the Library’s Photography Collection in a physical exhibition in the Print Gallery & Stokes Gallery at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (42nd Street at 5th Avenue in Manhattan); through an online exhibition at; and via short and long-form music videos viewed at the Library and online.

“This exhibition is not only an attempt to show another, perhaps less well-known side of the Photography Collection, it’s meant also as an homage to the first ‘recollection’ of photographs at NYPL thirty years ago,” says Stephen Pinson, exhibition curator, Assistant Director for Arts, Prints, and Photographs and Robert B. Menschel Curator of the Photography Collection. “I have gathered together these photographs under the broad category of portraiture in order to celebrate their diverse origins as well as their shared destiny, a destiny that I think Cartier-Bresson had in mind when he described portraits as ‘visual reverberations.’ Photographs make us remember, they remind us and recall things, but they also recall one another.”

Recollection is not a survey exhibition of photographic history and processes but rather a carefully curated work loosely based on the genre of “portraiture”. People and human nature are the subjects of the work featured in Recollection. The earliest work, for example, is Zaida Ben-Yusuf’s “Grover Cleveland” from 1901; the latest portraits, by Stephen Dupont and Robin Bowman, are both from 2004. Dorothea Lange documents “Woman of the High Plains” (1938); Amy Arbus photographed “Ann Magnuson on Park Avenue” (1981); Penny Diane Wolin’s “That’s His Mother, He Never Married” (1985) is also included. Famous and anonymous faces mingle in the exhibition; happiness, regret, and melancholy interact. The exhibition sequencing links the diverse works in an emotionally intelligent way.

The online exhibition of Recollection displays the images in their curatorial entirety but also allows the viewer to search by photographer and theme and to discover how each image made its way to the Library’s collection (donation, purchase, etc.).

A three-minute video showing each work will be shown in Astor Hall of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. A shorter version of this video will be available for online viewing at the exhibition website at Both videos are accompanied by the song “Soak It Up” from Houses, a “Chicago-based bliss pop outfit” (noted by music blog Pitchfork). Houses’ debut album All Night comes out October 19 on Lefse Records; Houses can be found at Olgivy & Mather New York and Go Robot Editorial produced the videos. A free download of Houses’ “Soak It Up” is also available from the exhibition’s website.

Photography at NYPL traces its origins back to the opening of the Astor Library in 1849, a decade after Louis Daguerre announced the first commercially viable photographic process to the world. Photographs have been part of the Library ever since, whether collected as supporting reference matter for various divisions or as original source material based on depicted subjects. “Photography” as a distinct research category and collecting division, however, was not formally recognized until thirty years ago, at a time when photography as its own artistic medium was gaining recognition in the larger art world. The Collection today comprises 500,000 photographs by 6,000 photographers.

Recollection: Thirty Years of Photography at The New York Public Library has been made possible by the continuing generosity of Miriam and Ira D. Wallach.

Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, Jonathan Altman, and Pannonia Foundation.

Image: Amy Arbus. Ann Magnuson on Park Avenue. Gelatin silver print, 1981. NYPL, Wallach Division, Photography Collection. © Amy Arbus.

About the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. Its renowned research collections are located in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem; and the Science, Industry and Business Library at 34th Street and Madison Avenue. Eighty-seven branch libraries provide access to circulating collections and a wide range of other services in neighborhoods throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English for speakers of other languages. All in all The New York Public Library serves more than 17 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at

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