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Release Date: August 10, 2007

Amateur Photography to be Spotlighted at National Gallery of Art in The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978: from the Collection of Robert E. Jackson, on View October 7 through December 31, 2007

Washington, DC—The range and creativity of amateur photography in the United States is revealed in approximately 200 anonymous works in the exhibition The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888–1978: From the Collection of Robert E. Jackson. It is the first major exhibition, accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, to examine the evolution of snapshot imagery in America. The show begins with the invention of the Kodak camera in 1888 and extends through the 1970s, tracing a rich vocabulary of shared subjects, approaches, and styles.

The exhibition will be on view at the National Gallery of Art, October 7 through December 31, 2007, in the Gallery’s West Building photography galleries and will travel to the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX, February 16 through April 27, 2008.

“In the years since 1888, when George Eastman and others made it possible for anyone to make a photograph, billions of snapshots have been made in this country alone,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “This exhibition and catalogue celebrate the remarkable creativity of American amateur photographers and provide fascinating insights into American life in the last century.”

In 1888, when Eastman introduced the Kodak camera and roll film, he revolutionized the way Americans represented themselves and marked life events. Adopting the slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest,” the Kodak was portable, fairly inexpensive, and easy to use, allowing the camera to capture abundant images of everyday life. At the dawn of the digital age, the silver-based snapshots, which were taken over the course of almost a century since the Kodak’s invention, are fast becoming historical artifacts.

Over the past decade, Robert E. Jackson has assembled one of the foremost collections of American snapshots. Captivated by the range and creativity of amateur photographs, Jackson has acquired thousands of examples that are distinguished by both their breadth and quality. Purchased at flea markets, art fairs, and online, these snapshots have become separated from their original context and stripped of their personal meaning, allowing us to examine them in new ways.

Organization and Sponsorship

This exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Trellis Fund and The Ryna and Melvin Cohen Family Foundation. The catalogue is published with the assistance of the Getty Foundation.

The Exhibition

The Art of the American Snapshot is organized chronologically, compared to most previous exhibitions of snapshots, which have grouped photographs based on themes or visual subjects. The exhibition charts the cultural influences and technological advances that encouraged amateurs to explore new subjects and styles, investigates the common tricks and technical gaffes in amateur snapshots, and reveals how proper behavior when posing for the camera changed over time. The snapshots on view tell us what it felt like to live, work, love, and have fun in the late 19th and 20th centuries, and they showcase the inventiveness of these anonymous American photographers.

The Collector

Robert E. Jackson has been a dedicated collector of snapshot photographs for about 10 years. During that time, he has acquired more than 8,500 images. He received an M.A. in art history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, focusing his studies on American art. He then earned an M.B.A. from the University of Texas, Austin, where he wrote a thesis on corporate art collecting. He currently works in Seattle as an analyst for a large global asset management company.

Exhibition Curators and Related Activities

The exhibition curators are Sarah Greenough, senior curator of photographs, and Diane Waggoner, assistant curator of photographs, National Gallery of Art.

Greenough and collector Robert E. Jackson will discuss the exhibition on October 14 at 2:00 p.m. in the East Building Auditorium. A catalogue signing will follow the discussion.

A public symposium will be held on November 10 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the East Building Auditorium.

Gallery talks will be held on November 2, 20, and December 4, 10, 19, and 21, starting in the West Building Rotunda at 12 noon. Constance McCabe will lead a special gallery talk entitled Snapshot Cameras and the Photographs They Produce on November 7 and 14 and December 5 at 2 p.m.

The National Gallery of Art will screen two documentaries: Other People’s Pictures by Lorca Sheppard and Cabot Philbrick (2005, 90 minutes) on October 11, 12, 18, 19 and November 21 and 23 at 1:00 p.m., and on November 24 at 11:00 a.m., and Wisconsin Death Trip: How a Town in Wisconsin Went Mad (1999, 76 minutes) on October 14 at 4:30 p.m.

All programs will be free and open to the public unless noted otherwise. For more information, call (202) 737-4215.

Exhibition Catalogue

The exhibition catalogue, The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978, includes essays by National Gallery of Art curators Sarah Greenough, Diane Waggoner, Sarah Kennel, and Matthew S. Witkovsky. The hardcover edition is published in association with Princeton University Press. The 304-page publication includes more than 250 photographs and is currently available from the National Gallery of Art by phone at (202) 842-6002 or (800) 697-9350 ($55.00 hardcover, $29.95 softcover).

General Information

For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications
(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

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