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University of Michigan Museum of Art Presents Fresh Look at the History of Photography April 22-June 25

Last Show in Current Facility Before Construction Begins on Historic Expansion and Restoration Project

This spring the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) presents Rethinking the Photographic Image: The Best of Photography from the George Eastman House Collection, a fresh and expansive look at the rich history of the medium that has shaped the modern era. The product of a new partnership between UMMA and George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, the exhibition draws upon the deep holdings and resources of George Eastman House, one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of photography and film. On view from April 22 through June 25, this ambitious undertaking—installed in galleries on all three floors of the Museum—will be the final exhibition in the Museum’s current facility, Alumni Memorial Hall, before the institution undertakes construction on its long-awaited expansion and restoration project. On June 24, the Museum opens its temporary exhibition space, to be called UMMA Off/Site, at 1301 South University in Ann Arbor, just blocks from its current landmark location.

Included among the more than 250 images in the exhibition are photographic gems such as Matthew Brady’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln, iconic images by Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Manuel Alvarez-Bravo, Lewis Hine, and Alfred Stieglitz; and works by living artists such as Barbara Kruger, Nicholas Nixon, Lorna Simpson, and Lucas Samaras. Rounding out this spectacular focus on photography will be a focused examination of the groundbreaking work of young British photographer Andy Lock.

Roughly chronological, the exhibition is divided into four thematic sections that trace the stylistic and cultural transitions embodied in photographic practice over time: “Beginnings,” when technologies and conventions for the nascent medium were formed; “The Shaping Eye,” which reflects the self-conscious visions of the Pictorialist and Modernist traditions; “Active Witness,” which focuses on the often provocative documentary, journalistic, and activist imagery created in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s; and “Contemporary Visions,” in which present-day photographers pursue a diversity of strategies in ways that parallel the medium’s early years, including a return to antiquarian printing techniques even as artists exploit the possibilities of the digital age. Each section is punctuated by focused explorations that question artistic intent or challenge how photographs work as images—even as they ask visitors to think outside the framework of chronology.

Rethinking the Photographic Image: The Best of Photography from the George Eastman House Collection was organized by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, New York, in affiliation with the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

This exhibition is made possible in part by National City Bank, Borders Group, Dykema, the Office of the President of the University of Michigan, Ernestine and Herbert Ruben, the Eugene and Emily Grant Family Foundation, Rudolf Arnheim, Michigan Radio, The Ann Arbor News, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Main Street Area Association, the Doris Sloan Memorial Fund and the Friends of the Museum of Art.

Sloan Lecture

The Museum’s annual Sloan Memorial Lecture has been organized to coincide with Rethinking the Photographic Image. On Sunday, May 7 at 3 pm, Sandra Phillips, Senior Curator of Photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, will present a lecture entitled “Times of Change.” This lecture will explore several key moments in the history of photography—the early evolutions of the1860s; the turn of the 20th century and the early modernists, with special attention paid to the hand camera; and the intersection of journalistic and fine art photography in the1960s. Compelling developments from each of these eras will be discussed in light of the significant changes and challenges facing photography today.

Sandra Phillips is a leading scholar and curator of photography who currently heads one of the most dynamic museum photography departments in America at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Phillips has written and lectured widely on photography and is the author or co-author of several books and catalogues. Her recent exhibitions include: John Szarkowski: Photographs; Diane Arbus Revelation; Police Pictures: The Photograph as Evidence; and Shomei Tomatsu: Skin of a Nation.

The Sloan Memorial Lecture honors one of the Museum’s most ardent friends and supporters. Established through the generosity of Dr. Herbert Sloan, the annual lecture is a tribute to Dr. and Mrs. Sloan’s shared passion for collecting art and fostering its appreciation.

Museum Hours and Information

Through the run of Rethinking the Photographic Image, the Museum’s hours will remain the same: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10-5; Thursday 10-9; Sunday 12-5.

Admission is free; $5 suggested donation.

For more information, please call the 24-hour information hotline at 734.763.UMMA or visit our website at

Museum Background

UMMA is considered one of the finest university art museums in the country. Its collections of nearly 18,000 works of art in the Western, Asian, and African traditions include works by most of the great masters and represent the key schools and movements in these cultures. Its collections of works by Whistler and Picasso, and of Chinese painting, Japanese prints, Korean ceramics, and Congolese sculpture are among the finest in North America.

The Museum’s $35.4 million building project expansion and restoration project has been designed by renowned American architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture and will include a 53,000-square-foot addition, as well as the complete restoration and renovation of Alumni Memorial Hall, the elegant Beaux-Arts style building that has been the Museum’s home since its foundation in 1946. In 2004, the UMMA project won one of four coveted design awards from the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The projected grand re-opening of the expanded and restored Museum is fall 2008. 

UMMA Off/Site

From June 24, 2006 through mid-2008, while Alumni Memorial Hall is being restored and expanded, the Museum will operate a temporary exhibition space, UMMA Off/Site. Located immediately adjacent to the University’s Central Campus at 1301 South University, near much off-campus student housing and less than a block from the Forest Avenue parking structure, the open 4,000-square-foot space will house temporary exhibitions as well as a modest Museum store.

The slate of exhibitions at UMMA Off/Site will focus on photography and the moving image and will include proto-cinematic sculpture by New York artist Gregory Barsamian; Embracing Eatonville, a photographic survey of Eatonville, Florida, the oldest black incorporated town in the United States and the hometown of celebrated Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston; and Imagining Eden: Connecting Landscapes, a long-term study of idealized human-made landscapes by California artist Lyle Gomes.