Seen Together showcases over forty previously unexhibited works acquired by the Morgan’s Department of Photography since its founding in 2012. The pieces selected, and their thematic arrangements, reflect the department’s two highest priorities: first, to build a photography collection that converses with other collections at the Morgan, including drawings, printed books, and literary manuscripts; and second, to draw from widely varied historical contexts and traditions for photographs that collectively tell larger stories about the medium.
One wall of the exhibition features eighteen photographs of prominent figures from many creative disciplines, notably visual art (Yayoi Kusama, Marcel Duchamp, Saul Steinberg), literature (Marianne Moore, Jack Kerouac), performance (Yoko Ono, Harlem Renaissance dancer Edna Guy), and music (Louis Hardin, aka Moondog). Visually inventive photography of artists—transcending “portraiture” in the familiar sense—forms a major ongoing focus for the department. It has grown out of two early initiatives: the 2007 acquisition of seventy-one photographs by Irving Penn and Diane Arbus portraying artists collected by the Morgan and the 2013 launch of the Peter Hujar Collection, which today numbers over 150 works.
Other themes explored in Seen Together include kaleidoscopic and abstract camera imagery, the visual dynamic between (artistic) “landscapes” and (touristic) “views” in the nineteenth century, and the artist’s own body as subject. A unique and engaging group of thirty-one anonymously made snapshots, compiled by the collector Peter J. Cohen, finds the camera being used to document the work lives of everyday people. Two artists are seen in some depth: Irving Penn, with three photographs demonstrating his work for Vogue magazine in fashion, travel, and food; and Eleanor Antin, whose influential series of fifty-one postcards, 100 Boots, was mailed, card by card, to several dozen correspondents forty years ago and given, as a complete set, to the Morgan in 2022.
This exhibition is organized by Joel Smith, Richard L. Menschel Curator and Department Head of Photography.
Seen Together: Acquisitions in Photography is supported by the Margaret T. Morris Fund for Americana and the J. W. Kieckhefer Foundation.