Photography

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, Donald Blumberg, and Lee Friedlander.
Nancy Nude in White Chair
Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona
Equivalent, Set D, no. 2
Feather and Matchboxes
Albino sword swallower at a carnival, Maryland
Messenger Boy (Portrait of Richard Pierce)

About Photography

The first significant group of photographs to enter the Gallery’s collection were two extraordinary sets of images by Man Ray. A group of fifteen “Rayographs” came to the Gallery in 1941 from Marcel Duchamp and Katherine S. Dreier as part of the Société Anonyme collection of modern art, followed in 1953 by an additional group of photographic prints and Rayographs in a bequest from Dreier’s estate. The Gallery began to actively collect photographs in 1971, with the acquisition of twenty-five prints by Walker Evans, who taught at the Yale School of Art from 1964 to 1974, and today the collection holds over 700 of Evans’s prints and Polaroids.

The collection holds sets of master prints by Robert Adams, Donald Blumberg, and Lee Friedlander, along with significant holdings of work by Lucien Aigner and Inge Morath. The collection also includes strong examples from the tradition of street photography, including works by Robert Frank, Lewis Hine, Helen Levitt, and Garry Winogrand, and notable images of war and social upheaval by Larry Burrows, Dorothea Lange, Charles Moore, and W. Eugene Smith.

Committed to collecting the work of significant figures working today, the Gallery has acquired key works by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Zhang Huan, An-My Lê, Christian Marclay, Judith Joy Ross, Mark Ruwedel, James Welling, and others. The Gallery proudly features photographs by some of the medium’s most influential educators—including Richard Benson, Carl Chiarenza, Emmet Gowin, Nathan Lyons, and Tod Papageorge—as well as examples by prominent graduates from the Yale School of Art.

The collection is available to students and scholars through exhibitions and by appointment. Please email yuag.photo@yale.edu at least two weeks in advance to view original photographs. All appointment requests must be made in writing.

Note from the Curator

On view from February 24 through June 25, 2023, Systematic Thinking explores how photographers use their medium to organize their thoughts and the world around them—to categorize and sort both concrete objects and abstract concepts. Mel Bochner’s ordered array of diagrams and block structures, for example, sets photography into dialogue with mathematics, intimating how the latter functions simultaneously as a tool of empirical measurement and a language of symbolic representation. Meanwhile, employing a computer-driven system to pose questions about authority and authorship, Sherrie Levine digitally pixelates the work of her canonical male predecessors. Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe collage 19th- and 20th-century landscape images with their own contemporary photographs of the same sites to reflect on how historical presentations of the land can condition our experience of the environment today. Other artists question the conventions of portraiture, examining how the genre is used to construct identity or the expectation that it can capture a singular moment in time. Finally, through their experimentation with seriality and montage, Sophie Calle, Adrian Piper, and Ed Ruscha demonstrate how photobooks can serve to sort reality into categories like narrative and evidence.

Yechen Zhao

The Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the Department of Photography

Danielle Raad

The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman–Joan Whitney Payson Fellow in Academic Affairs and Outreach

with Judy Ditner
The Richard Benson Associate Curator of Photography and Digital Media
Mel Bochner, 12 Photographs and 4 Diagrams (N+1 Center Sets), 1966–67, printed 1999. Gelatin silver prints. Yale University Art Gallery, Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund. Courtesy of the artist
Leslie Hewitt, Riffs on Real Time (9 of 10), 2006–9. Chromogenic print. Yale University Art Gallery, Purchased with a gift from the Arthur and Constance Zeckendorf Foundation. © Leslie Hewitt
Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, View from the Handrail at Glacier Point Overlook, Connecting Views from Ansel Adams to Carleton Watkins, 2004. Pigmented inkjet print. Yale University Art Gallery, Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund. © Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe

Featured Media

Meet the Curator

Judy Ditner

Judy Ditner is the Richard Benson Associate 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.

judy.ditner@yale.edu

PDF icon Download Judy Ditner's CV

Half a body shot of Judy Ditner.

Meet the Fellow

Yechen Zhao

Yechen Zhao is the Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the Department of Photography. He earned a B.A. in Art History from the University of Chicago and is completing his PH.D. in Art History at Stanford University, California. His dissertation examines the redefinition of photography’s artistic, economic, and legal value in the United States in the 1970s. His research has been generously supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Center for Creative Photography. Yechen’s writing will appear in the 8th Triennial of Photography Hamburg and in a forthcoming issue of History of Photography dedicated to photography and policing. In the Department of Photography, he contributes exhibition-related research and writing and leads visits to the collection.

yechen.zhao@yale.edu

Half-body shot of Yechen Zhao in front of Martin Wong's painting La Vida.

Further Reading

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.

Lyons, Nathan. After 9/11: Photographs, exh. cat. With a poem by Marvin Bell. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2003.

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.