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Library gallery showcases unique acquisitions

One of UMBC’s best-kept secrets is the photography collection and archive maintained by the Albin O. Kuhn Library. Nestled between the bustling new Einstein Bros. Bagels and the library circulation desk, the gallery appears to be nearly void of viewers in the first week of its opening.

Even the gallery’s guestbook has only one name signed. This serves as hard evidence of the UMBC population’s apparent disinterest towards the current exhibition thus far. Despite the vacancy, the exhibition on display, “Depth of Field: Acquisitions to UMBC’s Photography Collection, 2008-2018,” proved to fascinate viewers with both an expansive and diverse breadth of works. UMBC’s Photography Collections, part of the library’s special collections, is home to over two million photographs.

Emily Hauver, the Curator of Exhibitions, provided some insight on the works featured in “Depth of Field.”

What are the most recently acquired photographs in this exhibition? How were they acquired?

“Of the photographs featured in the exhibition, those that were most recently added to the collection are a selection of three hand-painted photographs: a large albumen print (c. 1890s) portraying a child wearing a pinafore and two gelatin silver prints (c.1950s) depicting an American veteran and museum-goers, hand-painted with editorial and reproduction goals in mind as the images ultimately appeared in a newspaper.

All of these images were part of a larger gift of 39 images made in 2018 by Sara Cleary-Burns. Ms. Burns is a collector of hand-painted photographs from all eras and is one of our esteemed donors who has given photographs to the collection on several occasions.”

What photographs stand out most to you in “Depth of Field”?

“There are so many fantastic images on display in ‘Depth of Field’! I’m particularly drawn to a series of photographs by Dorothy Norman (1905-1997). The images are small in size but are well-composed and visually striking, and the various subjects she photographed in this series create interesting juxtapositions when considered as a group.

“There is also a great image from 2005 by Walter Iooss, a sports photographer, of a glamorously dressed Serena Williams applying makeup as she rides in a limo with her faithful pup Jackie at her feet and ‘The Godfather’ playing on the in-car TVs.

“A series of four images by Donna Ferrato from her ‘American Woman’ series and a selection of photographs by Peter Turnley, pulled from several different series of his, are also notable for the importance of the subjects they depict (women changing the world for Ferrato, and individuals finding themselves at and crossing international borders for Turnley) and their social and political relevance today, a decade or more after the photograph was taken.

“Finally, I’ll mention a fun photograph with beautiful color by Robert Fichter who incorporates work in various media as well as props into multilayered and sometimes bizarre tableaus. We received Fichter’s archive last year and will be presenting an exhibition of his work next fall in the Library Gallery.”

What kind of significance does the Photography Collection hold to the university?

[Answer to this question provided by Chief Curator and Head of Special Collections, Dr. Beth Saunders]

“The Photography Collection is really a treasure of the university and an incredible resource for faculty, students, and scholars. The collection comprises over 2 million photographs that represent the development of the medium, from early American daguerreotypes — which you can see in the current show — to scientific images, press photographs, contemporary art and much more. We also house the University Photographs collection which tells the story of UMBC’s development as a campus and a community.”

“Depth of Field” is on display in the A.O.K Library Gallery through Dec. 19.