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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
Lee Friedlander, Untitled, from the series Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, 1957, printed later. Gelatin silver print. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Maria and Lee Friedlander, HON. 2004. © Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. Photo courtesy Eakins Press Foundation
The exhibition Let Us March On: Lee Friedlander and the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom presents photographer Lee Friedlander’s images of the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, a critical yet generally neglected moment in American civil rights history. On May 17, 1957—the third anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, which outlawed segregation in public schools—thousands of activists united in front of the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C. Friedlander, then just 22 years old, photographed this first large-scale gathering of African Americans on the National Mall, eventually producing a series of 58 images of the speakers on the podium and the demonstrators on the ground. At the time, Friedlander was a freelance photographer and could not find a publisher for this work. In the following decades, as he went on to build a prodigious career in fine-art photography, he remained dedicated to the project. In 2008 Friedlander printed a set of images from his original 1957 negatives, and Eakins Press Foundation—a publishing house specializing in volumes on American art and photography—agreed to publish the series as a book. After the book was released in 2015, Friedlander donated the original set of gelatin silver prints to the Gallery. In Let Us March On, these photographs are exhibited publicly for the first time. The exhibition is also accompanied by a free brochure, available in the gallery space, which describes the history of the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, the significance of these images to Friedlander’s career, and the enduring relevance of these photographs today.
The Richard Benson Assistant Curator of Photography and Digital Media
Meet the Curator
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.