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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
Print drawer in the archive of the Famous Photographers School containing photographs by Richard Avedon, including Elizabeth Taylor (1964), Louis Armstrong (1956), and Rudolf Nureyev (1961). Photograph by Jody Dole, 2016
The Gallery recently acquired a unique artistic and educational resource, the entire holdings of the Archive of the Famous Photographers School. The School was made up of ten major twentieth-century American photographers whose creative visions and educational philosophies promoted the expressive potential of their medium. The group also greatly influenced the fields of advertising, journalism, and the fine arts; Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, for instance, was one of the school’s first faculty members. Other artists who joined the group were renowned fashion and portrait photographers Richard Avedon, Philippe Halsman, and Irving Penn. Arthur d’Arazien, Richard Beattie, Joseph Costa, Harry Garfield, Bert Stern, and Ezra Stoller are better known for their commercial, celebrity, and architectural work, and Margaret Bourke-White, though not a member of the group, served as an important advisor.
Founded in 1961 as an outgrowth of the Famous Artists School—a successful postwar educational enterprise that offered correspondence courses in the visual arts—the Famous Photographers School offered its lessons in hard-bound volumes that were sold by subscription until 1974. The thousands of photographs, negatives, proof sheets, book dummies, instructional materials, student work, business records, and correspondence contained in the School’s archive will offer many opportunities for research and learning at the Gallery as well as exhibitions, publications, and public programs.
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.