Photography

William H. Bell

American, born England (1830-1910)

Cañon of Kanab Wash, Colorado River, Looking South

1872

Albumen print

1991.483.17

The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection: Funds from Mr. and Mrs. George G. Anderman, Nancy L. Benson, Florence R. and Ralph L. Burgess Trust, 1990 Collectors' Choice, J. Rathbone Falck, General Service Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. William D. Hewit, Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Leede, Pauline A. and George R. Morrison Trust, Frederick and Jan Mayer, Newmont Mining Corporation, O'Shaughnessy Fund, Volunteer Endowment Fund, Ginny Williams, Estelle Wolf, anonymous donors, and the generosity of our visitors, with additional support from the voters who created the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

Attributed to William Henry Jackson

American (1843-1942)

Pueblo Laguna, New Mexico

1883

Albumen print

1991.260.110

The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection: Funds from Mr. and Mrs. George G. Anderman, Nancy L. Benson, Florence R. and Ralph L. Burgess Trust, 1990 Collectors' Choice, J. Rathbone Falck, General Service Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. William D. Hewit, Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Leede, Pauline A. and George R. Morrison Trust, Frederick and Jan Mayer, Newmont Mining Corporation, O'Shaughnessy Fund, Volunteer Endowment Fund, Ginny Williams, Estelle Wolf, anonymous donors, and the generosity of our visitors, with additional support from the voters who created the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

Timothy H. O’Sullivan

American (c. 1840 -1882)

Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelley, New Mexico

1873

Albumen print

1991.483.48

The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection: Funds from Mr. and Mrs. George G. Anderman, Nancy L. Benson, Florence R. and Ralph L. Burgess Trust, 1990 Collectors' Choice, J. Rathbone Falck, General Service Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. William D. Hewit, Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Leede, Pauline A. and George R. Morrison Trust, Frederick and Jan Mayer, Newmont Mining Corporation, O'Shaughnessy Fund, Volunteer Endowment Fund, Ginny Williams, Estelle Wolf, anonymous donors, and the generosity of our visitors, with additional support from the voters who created the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

Henry Bosse

American, born Germany (1844-1903)

From Bluffs at Pine Bend Looking Downstream from the album Views on the Mississippi River between Minneapolis, Minn and St. Louis, Mo., 1883-1891

1891

Cyanotype

2008.864

Gift arranged by Mr. Darren K. Quintenz of Quintenz & Company

Like many—probably most—early photographers, Henry Bosse was self-taught. He learned the cyanotype process in his capacity as a draftsman for the Army Corps of Engineers, simply because cyanotype was used to make blueprints. He was soon using his camera to document the Corp’s engineering works on the Upper Mississippi River. Many of Bosse’s photographs are straightforward descriptions, but others, like this, are sensitive, picturesque views that convey a gentle and sometimes melancholy sense of Midwestern landscape.

John Horgan, Jr.

American (1858-1926)

Mathew's Place, Lobdel Station, Jas. S. Richardson's Property, Bolivar Co., Miss., Mississippi Valley Route

c. 1891

Albumen print

1991.181

The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection: Funds from Mr. and Mrs. George G. Anderman, Nancy L. Benson, Florence R. and Ralph L. Burgess Trust, 1990 Collectors' Choice, J. Rathbone Falck, General Service Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. William D. Hewit, Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Leede, Pauline A. and George R. Morrison Trust, Frederick and Jan Mayer, Newmont Mining Corporation, O'Shaughnessy Fund, Volunteer Endowment Fund, Ginny Williams, Estelle Wolf, anonymous donors, and the generosity of our visitors, with additional support from the voters who created the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

Photographer unknown

Untitled (Shelter Island)

1890s

Albumen print

1991.401

The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection: Funds from Mr. and Mrs. George G. Anderman, Nancy L. Benson, Florence R. and Ralph L. Burgess Trust, 1990 Collectors' Choice, J. Rathbone Falck, General Service Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. William D. Hewit, Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Leede, Pauline A. and George R. Morrison Trust, Frederick and Jan Mayer, Newmont Mining Corporation, O'Shaughnessy Fund, Volunteer Endowment Fund, Ginny Williams, Estelle Wolf, anonymous donors, and the generosity of our visitors, with additional support from the voters who created the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

Edward Jean Steichen

American, born Luxembourg (1879-1973)

Portrait of Clarence White

1905

Photogravure print

1981.176

Gift of the Strauss Collection

Gertrude Käsebier

American (1852-1934)

Portrait of Martine McCulloch

1910

Platinum print

1984.696

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward M. Strauss

Frank Eugene

American, worked in Germany (1865-1936)

Adam and Eve

1910

Photogravure print

1998.443

Gift of Charles and Mary Corkin

Chan Chao

American, born Burma (born 1966)

Member of the KNLA, Burma from the series Something Went Wrong

1996

Chromogenic color print

2008.871

Gift of Alan Manley

André Kertész

American, born Hungary (1894-1985)

Circus, Budapest, 19 May 1920 from Hungarian Memories 1914-1924

1920

Gelatin silver print

1987.443

Gift of I.J. Shore

David Levinthal

American (born 1949)

Untitled (Standing Scout with Rifle)

2002

Dye diffusion transfer print

2008.6

Gift in Memory of Ryan Taylor

American photographer David Levinthal is known for his Polaroid photographs of children's toys, action figures, and other miniatures. Levinthal's lilliputian scenography and manipulation of camera angle, depth of field, and focus transform his diminutive models into haunting icons of American popular culture. The use of toys both monumentalizes and questions archetypical heroes and celebrities.

David Levinthal's engagement with the West dates to the early 1980s. He frankly admits that mid-century western B-movies and television series, as well as the plastic cowboys and Indians he played with as a child, have been major influences on his western pictures. He is quick to note that these photographs are "not representative of the West as we now understand it; nonetheless, it is a reality that exists because it's part of our shared iconography."

Jaromír Funke

Czech (1896-1945)

Composition Abstraction

1922

Gelatin silver print

1998.222

Partial gift of David and Sheryl Tippit and funds from the National Endowment for the Arts by exchange.

Floris Michael Neusüss

German (born 1937)

Light-Motion-Time Effect (Lichtlaufzeiteffekt)

1988

Gelatin silver print

1992.207

Funds from the 1992 Alliance for Contemporary Art Auction

Ruth Thorne-Thomsen

American (born 1943)

Thunder Head from the Views from the Shoreline series

1986

Contact printed, toned gelatin silver print

1987.50

Funds from the Acquisition Challenge Grant

Well before the advent of Photoshop and other digital tools, Ruth Thorne-Thomsen created these photos through careful layering of several different images. The results are portraits that give as much attention—or more—to the inner workings of our lives as to the outward appearances of things.

Petah Coyne

American (born 1953)

Untitled 735

1992

Gelatin silver print

2009.374

Gift of Polly and Mark Addison

We tend to picture monks sitting very still and meditating, so it is surprising to see this mob of monks dashing across the photograph in a blur.

Ralph Gibson

American (born 1939)

Woman's Face with Shadow

1974

Gelatin silver print

1982.350.5

Gift of Lilian A. Ostermann

Robert Benjamin

American (born 1947)

Nellie and Her Italian Soda, Boulder

1993

Chromogenic color print

2009.776

Purchased with Photography Department Funds from Cathey and Richard Finlon

“I’m trying to break away on every level from all this angst and heaviness in the world. It’s there, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be the object of your affection. And I think the object of my affection has to be stillness, and friends, and beauty.”

—Robert Benjamin

Patrick Nagatani, collaborated in part with Andrée Tracey

American (born 1945)

Trinitite, Ground Zero, Trinity Site, New Mexico

1988-1989

Chromogenic color print

1992.557

Funds from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District

When a nuclear bomb goes off in the desert, sand gets sucked up into the mushroom cloud, where it is fused into something like glass by the intense heat. Then it rains back to earth in a storm of fist-sized, radioactive green chunks called trinitite (named for the Trinity Test Site). The floating green rocks and the guy in the HAZMAT suit give this photograph a cartoon-like quality that is at odds with its underlying scariness.

Wang Qingsong

Chinese (born 1966)

Knickknack Peddler

2002

Chromogenic color print

2009.381

Gift of Polly and Mark Addison

Wang Qingsong didn’t pull this tableau out of thin air: the photograph is an homage, modeled after a drawing with the same title that was created by Li Sung in 1210. Qingsong’s mix of traditional and contemporary costumes and props links modern-day consumerism with life 800 years ago and reminds me that however much things seem to change, some core experiences stay very much the same.

Shirin Neshat

American, born Iran (born 1957)

Allegiance with Wakefulness

1994

Gelatin silver print with calligraphy

2009.375

Gift of Polly and Mark Addison

Shirin Neshat says that “in the Women of Allah photographic series, we are confronted with threatening images of women embracing the gun, yet there is something terribly submissive, erotic and sensual about the female bodies.” The gun barrel, which connotes aggression, contrasts with those pale, soft feet, which seem tender and almost vulnerable.

Anthony & Delisa Mayer Photography Gallery, Level 7, North Building

The photography department is recognized for its extensive holdings of nineteenth-century work, notably of the American West. Collectively, the museum’s works of early photography reflect both the achievements of the medium’s outstanding practitioners and the shifting environmental attitudes of nineteenth-century Americans. The collection also has strong holdings of European and American modernist photography.

The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection encompasses the work of photographers from Maine to California, and gives special emphasis to Western landscapes by acknowledged masters such as William Bell, W.H. Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan, Andrew Joseph Russell, Adam Clarke Vroman, and Carleton E. Watkins. Additional nineteenth-century holdings include recent acquisitions of masterworks such as William Henry Fox Talbot’s 1845 A Scene In York and several Henry Bosse cyanotypes from the album, Views on the Mississippi River. Collectively, the museum’s works of early photography reflect both the achievements of the medium’s outstanding practitioners and the shifting environmental attitudes of nineteenth century Americans.

European modernism is an additional strength of the photography collection, and one with significant affinity to artworks and other materials in the museum’s Herbert Bayer Archive. Important photographs by Bayer, Frantisek Drtikol, Jaromir Funke, Gyorgi Kepes, Man Ray, and others express the spirit of modernist vision and show the remarkable command of technique instilled through experiment. Works of American modernism by Berenice Abbott, Laura Gilpin, Edward Weston, and others show how similar approaches to light and form expressed in quite different responses.

Photographs in the collection from the second half of the twentieth century respond to changing perceptions and values, both in the art world and in the world at large. The museum’s substantial collection of Robert Adams photographs addresses environmental dilemmas in the American West through plain-spoken images of human-altered landscapes. Works by Diane Arbus and Larry Clark find dignity, frailty, and pathos in the marginalized. And the museum’s extensive holdings of Garry Winogrand photographs cull generous, humorous, and sometimes startling, stories from the chaos of everyday life in the streets.

Since 1970, photographers have frequently blurred the line between the medium and other artistic disciplines. The department has collected outstanding examples of contemporary photographic work to parallel the DAM’s modern and contemporary art collection. Works by artists such as Chuck Close, Petah Coyne, and Tom Friedman display the rich cross-fertilization that occurs when painters, sculptors and conceptual artists explore new ideas through photography. Other pieces, by David Levinthal, Cindy Sherman, and Lorna Simpson push the conventions of photography to new limits and expand our understanding of what the medium can be, while photographs by international artists, such as Shirin Neshat and Liu Wei exhibit the exchange of ideas that is possible in today’s universally connected world.

These DAM photography publications are available in the Shop and online.

  • Companion to the Strauss Photography Collection at the Denver Art Museum. Eric Paddock. Denver Art Museum, 2014.
  • Walking Magpie: On and Off the Leash. Chuck Forsman. Denver and Staunton, VA: Denver Art Museum and George F. Thompson Publishing, 2013.
  • Robert Benjamin: Notes from a Quiet Life. Robert Benjamin. Santa Fe and Denver: Radius Books in cooperation with the Denver Art Museum, 2012.
  • Prairie. Robert Adams. Denver and San Francisco: Denver Art Museum and Fraenkel Gallery, 2011.

In 1937, the Denver Art Museum made a far-sighted decision to begin collecting photographs with the native arts department purchase of a complete set of Edward S. Curtis’s landmark photogravure series, The North American Indian. From that year until 2008, seven curatorial departments within the museum formed independent photography collections—in the process compiling more than 7,000 images that span the history of photography, from 1845 to the present. Although a large number of photographs were collected during this time, acquisitions were frequently conducted without coordinated oversight or collaboration.

In 2008, the DAM established the photography department to consolidate future acquisitions, exhibitions, and care of photographs in a dedicated curatorial department. Despite being a young curatorial department, the photography collection holds works of nationally noted significance and objects which guide new opportunities for collecting.

The department’s inaugural exhibition, Exposure: Treasures from the Vault, was recognized as Denver’s best group photography show in 2011 by Westword, while the Denver Post awarded Eric Paddock the honor of “curator of the year” for the exhibit. The department also has hosted major travelling shows, such as Robert Adams: The Place We Live—A Retrospective Selection of Photographs, organized by the Yale University Art Gallery.

Current Staff

  • Eric Paddock, Curator
  • Micah Messenheimer, Curatorial Assistant