Albumen print, Panorama of Paris (1852), by Edouard Baldus (French, born Prussia, 1813-1889). Gift of The Stuart Society
ST. PETERSBURG – Photographing the City, revealing fascinating images from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, opens Saturday, Feb. 9, and continues through May 26.
This exhibition explores how 19th Century and 20th Century photographers responded to cities and towns, presented and preserved their history, and influenced their perception by the public. Among the artists represented are Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, Aaron Siskind, Weegee, and Garry Winogrand.
Museum exhibitions and educational programs are sponsored in part by The Stuart Society, and the Tampa Bay Times is the Media Sponsor.
The major themes include transportation, commerce, disaster, and community. Both documentary and fine art photographs are on view. The earliest image is an albumen print, Panorama of Paris (1852) by Edouard Baldus, one of the great photographers of architecture and monuments.
In fact, the exhibition has a number of albumen prints, one of the first photographic processes, as well as two striking cyanotypes, with their blue cast, of The Paris Exposition of 1900 by Albert Levy. The most recent image is Garry Winogrand’s famous 1970 photograph of people gathering in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, from his series Women are Beautiful.
Photographing the City was developed by graduate students at the University of South Florida in a fall 2012 seminar. Katherine Bussard, Associate Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, was the instructor. She was the Eminent Guest Scholar, Kennedy Family Artists-in-Residence Endowment. Half of the classes were taught at the Museum, and many of the images are drawn from The Ludmila Dandrew and Chitranee Drapkin Collection, now numbering more than 14,000 works. Photographing the City is the fourth exhibition based on this impressive collection.
“The Museum of Fine Arts has become a center for the display and study of photography, thanks to major donors,” said Director Kent Lydecker. “We always encourage the community to take advantage of this vast educational resource. The students in the seminar made new discoveries about the photographs, and their research is now available to our visitors through this engaging exhibition.”
History comes alive through images of storefronts and factories, railroads and bridges, street scenes from cities like New York and Paris, and urban disasters like the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, which resonate with our own like hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. The presence of people is felt even in the photographs of buildings and sites alone.
Many of the photographs depict the rise of cities, both at home and abroad. Clark Blickensderfer’s pictorialist Arteries of Industry (1920) conveys a country on the move through factories and the railroad. The city and modernism are intertwined, which is suggested in Berenice Abbott’s El, Second and Third Avenue Lines (1936) and her stunning New York at Night (1933). Photographs by Aaron Siskind and Walter Rosenblum capture the growing diversity of the modern city, in this case, New York.
The city is comprised of details and moments, of crowds and isolation. It can be skyscrapers or storefronts. It can be devastation and beauty. The vivid images in Photographing the City tell fascinating parts of that story.
The virtual exhibition
Everyone is encouraged to see the exhibition and then share their photographs through the Flickr project, “Photographing My City.” The students and Museum curatorial staff will monitor this virtual exhibition—a first in the MFA’s history.
Educational programs are free with MFA admission. Visit www.fine-arts.org for a complete list of programs.
Gallery Talk, Sunday, Feb. 10, 3 p.m.: Curatorial Assistant Sabrina Hughes will introduce the exhibition.
Monday Art Bite, Feb. 11, 1 p.m.: In this 30-minute informal talk, Curatorial Assistant Sabrina Hughes focuses on several photographs in the show.
Coffee Talk for people 55 plus, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 10 a.m.: Nan Colton, the MFA’s performing artist-in-residence, travels back in time for her interactive presentation, “Mrs. Tidbit - Living in Downtown St. Petersburg in 1925.” Refreshments are served, and a tour follows Colton’s performance. Sponsored in part by Westminster Communities of St. Petersburg.
The MFA at 255 Beach Drive NE. has a world-class collection, with works by Monet, Gauguin, Renoir, Morisot, Cézanne, Rodin, O’Keeffe, and many others. Also displayed are ancient Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Asian, African, pre-Columbian, and Native American art. The photography collection is one of the largest and most significant in the Southeast.
The Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, until 8 p.m. on Thursday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $10 on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. Regular admission is $17 for adults, $15 for those 65 and older, and $10 for students 7 and older, including college students with current I.D. Children under 7 and Museum members are admitted free. Groups of 10 or more adults pay $12 per person and children $4 each with prior reservations.
The MFA Café is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. . For reservations, call 727-822-1032.