Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs

Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs

Online: Summer 2020
In Gallery: September 21, 2019 - February 23, 2020
Jennifer Friess

Assistant Curator of Photography

What belongs in a museum’s permanent collection, and why?

Take Your Pick invites you—the Museum’s visitors—to have an important voice in selecting photographs for our permanent collection. Who and what should be represented, and how should we decide? 

When originally opened in Fall 2019, this exhibition considered these questions in regard to 1,000 amateur photographs on loan from the private collection of Peter J. Cohen, who has gathered more than 60,000 snapshots while exploring flea markets in the United States and Europe over two decades. The images he has collected depict all aspects of daily life and reveal the dynamic histories of amateur photography. 

Such pictures have particular significance in the current digital age, when it is much less common to make physical copies of personal photographs. They constitute important artifacts of twentieth-century visual culture and precedents for the photographs we still make today. 

Explore Take Your Pick and learn more about the history of snapshot photography.

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I love the idea that when you’re looking at pictures taken by amateurs ... You just have this little snapshot in time where you can’t really know the full story.

Collector Peter J. Cohen on Found photographs

What Makes a Good Picture?

Join Collector Peter J. Cohen on a tour of his collection, and hear from Curator Jennifer Friess on the motivation behind Take Your Pick and the exhibition’s impact. Click play to watch the short video.

Take Your Pick - By The Numbers


Explore The Top Ten Vote Getters

View the full list of top 250 vote getters that have been added UMMA's permanent collection:

Explore the collection

Go Deeper - Exhibition Themes

Smash Hit: UMMA Photography Exhibition Draws Big Crowds, Asks Big Questions About Museum

The votes are in, and UMMA’s 2019 photography exhibition, Take Your Pick, is a runaway hit. 

The photographs showcase every aspect of 20th-century American life you can imagine — and some you probably can’t. The sheer variety and range of images engross viewers, who not only have cast votes, but also have argued for their choices on thousands of cards posted inside the exhibition.

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Exhibition Support

Support for Take Your Pick is provided by Cecilia and Mark Vonderheide and the University of Michigan Office of the Provost and Department of Film, Television, and Media.

UMMA Digital Initiatives are supported by the Sandra and Louis Grotta Fund.

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