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.
Timothy H. O’Sullivan was arguably the most accomplished photographer working in the nineteenth century American West, yet the meaning and intent of his images has been questioned and contested by historians and critics. Toby Jurovics, Chief Curator and Holland Curator of American Western Art at Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, investigates O’Sullivan’s work for the geologic surveys led by Clarence King and George M. Wheeler, and his ongoing influence on landscape photography. More
Join curator Eric Paddock on a tour through On Desert Time: Landscape Photographs by O'Sullivan & Bell, 1871-1874. More
This exhibition presents photographs by Timothy H. O’Sullivan and William H. Bell made in the American Southwest, 1871-1874, during expeditions on the Wheeler Survey. More
This is your last chance to see eight Denver Art Museum exhibitions (included with general admission, free for members). More
Read our Q&A with photographer Danny Singer and see the exhibition of his work on view now. More
Read our Q&A with Eric Paddock. More
As you may have seen on Instagram, the Denver Art Museum held a Curator’s Choice: #DispatchPortrait contest in conjunction with the opening of the photography exhibition Alec Soth: Colorado Dispatch (on view through November 29). More
The Denver Art Museum recently opened the photography exhibition Alec Soth: Colorado Dispatch. Photographed over the course of a 2013 road trip, Colorado Dispatch presents the core of Soth’s work from the Centennial State, including photographs of ordinary citizens, familiar landscapes and puzzling details of local culture that offer an unromanticized, yet affectionate, view of the land and its people. More
Minnesota photographer Alec Soth’s pictures bring to light the quirkiness and humanity of people he encounters and the places where they live. From 2012–2014, Soth embarked on a series of state-by-state road trips to make a portrait of present-day America. His journey through each state that he visited was printed in a “dispatch” format that calls to mind a small town newspaper or travel guide. More
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.
- Eric Paddock, Curator
- Micah Messenheimer, Curatorial Assistant