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American Art Museum announces A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

American Art Museum presents A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum showcasing 113 photographs selected from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s permanent collection, on view from June 28 through Jan. 5, 2014.

The exhibition, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the museum’s photography collection, examines photography’s evolution in the United States from a documentary medium to a full-fledged artistic genre and showcases the numerous ways in which it has captured the American experience. The exhibition’s title is inspired by American poet Walt Whitman’s belief that photography provided America with a new, democratic art form that matched the spirit of the young country. The exhibition is organized by Merry Foresta, guest curator and independent consultant for the arts. Foresta was the museum’s curator of photography from 1983 to 1999.

The images on display range from early daguerreotypes to contemporary digital works. The exhibition includes works by Edward S. Curtis, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, Bernice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Roy DeCarava, Walker Evans, Irving Penn and Trevor Paglen, among others, as well as vernacular works by unknown artists. A number of recent acquisitions are featured, including works by Ellen Carey, Mitch Epstein, Muriel Hasbun, Alfredo Jaar, Annie Leibovitz, Deborah Luster and Sally Mann.

Landscape photography, formal portraits, scientific images, vernacular snapshots, documentary-style works from the New York Photo League and images from surveying expeditions sent west after the Civil War are among the photographs on view. These images explore how photographs have been used to record and catalog, to impart knowledge, to project social commentary and as instruments of self-expression.

A complementary website will include photographs on view in the exhibition, an expanded selection of works from the museum’s collection and a timeline of American photography. It will be available through tablet stations in the exhibition galleries, online and on mobile devices at