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The Gallery’s collection of photographs spans the medium’s history, with exceptional holdings of work made in America during the 20th century. Of particular distinction in the collection are complete sets of master prints by Robert Adams and Lee Friedlander.
Although the Yale University Art Gallery was founded before photography’s invention in 1839, the museum did not begin to actively collect photographs until 1971, when it acquired 25 prints by Walker Evans. Today the Gallery’s collection of over 12,000 photographs spans the medium’s history, with particular emphasis on work made in America during the 20th century.
Anchoring the collection are master prints by Robert Adams and Lee Friedlander, as well as significant concentrations of works by Man Ray and Walker Evans. The collection has strong examples from the tradition of street photography, including works by Lewis Hine, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, and Garry Winogrand. Also notable are pictures addressing the subjects of war and social upheaval by photographers such as Larry Burrows, Dorothea Lange, W. Eugene Smith, and Charles Moore.
Committed to collecting the work of significant figures working today, the Gallery has acquired key works by Judith Joy Ross, Mark Ruwedel, James Welling, Christian Marclay, Zhang Huan, and others. The Gallery proudly features photographs by some of the medium’s most influential educators—including Tod Papageorge, Richard Benson, Emmet Gowin, and Nathan Lyons—as well as examples by prominent graduates from the Yale University School of Art.
Note from the Curator
Christian Boltanski, Gymnasium Chases, 1991. Portfolio of 24 photogravures. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Allan Chasanoff, B.A. 1961, and Judith Chasanoff
Christian Boltanski (born 1944) grew up in the aftermath of World War II in a French Jewish-Catholic family. Boltanski’s work is about memory itself, but it most often takes the form of memorials to the victims of the Holocaust, centering on this massive cultural trauma and its aftershocks in personal and collective memory. One example currently on view at the Gallery is Gymnasium Chases (1991), a portfolio of 24 photogravures based on a found photograph of the 1931 graduating class of a Jewish high school in Vienna. The portraits of each student are vastly enlarged—causing the details of the individual faces to be subsumed into shadowy blurs—and arranged in a grid. The result is a haunting set of anonymous images that seem to turn into skulls before our eyes. While Boltanski has used many of these portraits in his installation work—such as La fête de Pourim (1988), also on view—Gymnasium Chases is the first time the class is presented in its entirety.
The Richard Benson Assistant Curator of Photography and Digital Media
Meet the Curator
Pamela Franks is Deputy Director for Exhibitions, Programming, and Education and the Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Franks has directed student curators at the Gallery in the creation of several major exhibitions, most recently Odd Volumes: Book Art from the Allan Chasanoff Collection (2014), and she is actively engaged in developing the Gallery’s visiting-artist programs. She is the project director for the Gallery’s College and University Art Museum Collection-Sharing Initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Franks holds a PH.D. in the History of Art from the University of Texas at Austin with a specialization in modern and contemporary art and is a 2008 graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute.
Judy Ditner is the Richard Benson Assistant Curator of Photography and Digital Media. Her research interests in photography span the history of the medium, with emphases on documentary and conceptual practices. Ditner has worked on exhibitions for the International Center of Photography and the New Museum in New York, the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, and the Ryerson Image Center in Toronto. She holds a PH.D. in art history from Boston University with specializations in the history of photography and contemporary art, an M.A. in curatorial studies from Bard College, and a B.F.A. in photography from Ryerson University in Toronto.Download CV
Adams, Robert. The Place We Live, A Retrospective Selection of Photographs, 1964–2009. 3 vols. With essays by Joshua Chuang, Tod Papageorge, Jock Reynolds, and John Szarkowski. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011.
Adams, Robert. Denver: A Photographic Survey of the Metropolitan Area, 1970–1974, rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2009.
Adams, Robert. Sea Stories. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011.
Adams, Robert. This Day: Photographs from Twenty-Five Years, The Northwest Coast. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011.
Adams, Robert. Summer Nights, Walking. New Haven and New York: Yale University Art Gallery and Apreture, 2009.
Adams, Robert. What Can We Believe Where?: Photographs of the American West. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2010.
Adams, Robert. What We Bought: The New World—Scenes from the Denver Metropolitan Area, 1970–1974. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2009.
Anderson, Ash, Paul Katz, and Richard Benson. From Any Angle: Photographs from the Collection of Doris Bry, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008.
Chuang, Joshua. First Doubt: Optical Confusion in Modern Photography, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008.
Chuang, Joshua, ed. Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin: Photography at Yale (2006).
Cornell, Daniell. Alfred Stieglitz and the Equivalent: Reinventing the Nature of Photography, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1999.
Friedlander, Lee. In the Picture: Self Portraits, 1958–2011. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011.
Friedlander, Lee. JFK: A Photographic Memoir. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2013.
Friedlander, Lee. Playing for the Benefit of the Band: New Orleans Music Culture. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2013.
Ranney, Edward. The Lines. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2014.
Reynolds, Jock. Emmet Gowin: Changing the Earth, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2002.
Ross, Judith Joy. Judith Joy Ross: Portraits of the Hazleton Public Schools, Hazleton, Pennsylvania: 1992–1994. With an essay by Jock Reynolds. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006.
Ruwedel, Mark. Westward the Course of Empire. With an essay by Jock Reynolds. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008.
Lyons, Nathan. After 9/11: Photographs, exh. cat. With a poem by Marvin Bell. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2003.