Photography and Architecture: 1840 – 1980

Edouard Baldus, L’Abbaye aux Dames, Caen

Because buildings have a marvelous tendency to stand still they have been a recurring subject for photographers, and consequently one of the great recurring themes in photography since the medium’s inception. (The world’s first successful photograph, in fact, taken by Nicephore Niepce on a pewter plate in 1826, was an architectural study of rooftops seen from the photographer’s window.) Photography and Architecture, while not attempting a comprehensive survey of the subject, does intend to bring together a number of important architectural works spanning a period of more than 130 years.

Beginning with an extremely rare street view from 1845 by W.H. Fox Talbot, the exhibition will highlight 19th century work by masters as Edouard Baldus, and the Bisson Freres in France, Roger Fenton in Great Britain and Giorgio Sommer in Italy. Although little attention has been paid to the architectural work of Carleton E. Watkins, this was an important aspect of his career, and one to which he brought his own comprehensive vision. Two mammoth-plate views by Watkins are included among other American works.

The twentieth century has produced photographers such as Eugene Atget, Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, and Harry Callahan, for whom architecture proved to be a source of continuing visual interest. This exhibition also includes contemporary work by photographers who have conscientiously expanded the tradition, such as Nicholas Nixon, Bill Dane, and Lewis Baltz.

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