by Laura Bien
Before its June 24 move to temporary quarters during its renovation, the U-M Museum of Art is giving itself a blowout sendoff with a sweeping survey of the history of photography, opening April 22.
The exhibition Rethinking the Photographic Image: The Best of Photography from the George Eastman House Collection will offer 250 photographs ranging from mid-nineteenth-century prints to contemporary works. The show as planned will include iconic images by Margaret Bourke-White, Lewis Hines, Ansel Adams, and famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, in four chronological sections on three floors of the museum.
The oldest section, "Beginnings," contains 1845 photographs called "salted paper print." This photographic technique involves soaking paper in a salt solution, coating it with silver nitrate, and exposing it to an image projected from a negative, sometimes for as long as eight hours.
Other "Beginnings" prints include an 1882 albumen print of Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony, and Sarony's 1880 portrait of Sarah Bernhardt. There's also Timothy
O'Sullivan's 1863 albumen print A Harvest of Death at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Mathew Brady's stunning portrait of a deeply war-wearied Lincoln, and Alexander Gardner's 1865 photo Lewis Payne, One of the Lincoln Conspirators, before His Execution.
The next chronological section of the exhibit, "The Shaping Eye," includes photos by chroniclers of less picturesque aspects of American life, including Al-fred Stieglitz's 1907 print The Steerage and One of Many Young Spinners in a Carolina Mill, Lewis Hines's sobering 1908 photo of a girl about eight years old, unsupervised, adjusting something on a huge machine taller than she is and filling an entire room.
The following section, "Active Witness," presents prints from Walker Evans that include Roadside Stand, Vicinity Birmingham, Alabama, 1936, showing two boys proudly holding giant melons in front of a fish shop's sign promising "Honest Weights, Square Dealings." There's also West Virginia Coal Miner's House, his 1935 photo of a bentwood rocker in front of a cardboard-covered wall decorated with cutouts of two high school
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