Photography and America’s National Parks Exhibition at the George Eastman Museum
June 4 – October 2, 2016
Exhibition Preview Friday June 3, 2016, 7 – 9 pm
Featuring William Henry Jackson, Carleton E. Watkins, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Philip Hyde and Contemporary Photographers
American entrepreneur George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company and popularized photography through the mass production of film and the cameras he manufactured. While a number of entertainers and recording artists have more than one star in different categories on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Eastman is the only honoree with two stars in the same category for the same achievement, the invention of roll film.
Besides inventing roll film, Eastman also invented the roll film holder, developed dry plate technology that simplified the mechanics of photography and bromide paper, which became a standard in the industry. Eastman’s transparent film enabled Thomas Edison to perfect the kinetoscope, a box that allowed one individual at a time to view films through a small viewer window, the forerunner of the present motion picture.
Eastman, after establishing a $200,000,000 industry, devoted most of his life to philanthropy. He pioneered sick pay, disability compensation, pensions and hospital benefits. He first distributed extra funds to employees doing a good job, one of the world’s first corporate bonuses. In the last decade of the 19th Century and in the first two of the 20th, he gave away more in wealth than anyone else besides John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie.
His gifts made the University of Rochester and MIT into first tier schools. He was the largest supporter of the education of African-Americans in the 1920s, donating to colleges like Tuskegee, Hampton, Howard and Meharry. He established dental clinics for children around the globe and founded the medical and dental school at the University of Rochester. He organized community music instruction, funded music education programs and concerts and built the Eastman Theater, still one of the largest and most eloquent concert halls in the country.
After his death in 1932, his 35,000 square foot home became part of the university, but proved too large for the president’s residence, as he had specified. In 1947, the state of New York chartered the George Eastman House as a non-profit museum of photography. After the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the George Eastman Museum became the second museum in the world to have a photography department and also the second museum in the world to have a film department.
The George Eastman Museum went on to develop one of the largest photography collections in the world including cinema art and photographic and cinematic technology, for a total of several million objects including over 450,000 photographs dating from the introduction of the medium in 1839 to the present. The collection also includes more than 28,000 motion picture films, one of the leading libraries of books related to photography and cinema and extensive holdings of documents and other objects related to George Eastman. Each year now the museum presents at least ten curated exhibitions. However, in the early days of the museum, shows were not as frequent.
In 1957, when Beaumont Newhall was head curator and Minor White was an assistant curator, the George Eastman Museum hosted a solo exhibition of the black and white prints of a new leading nature photographer and prolific user of Kodak paper and large format sheet film, Philip Hyde. The show consisted of 25 silver gelatin prints, three of which were purchased for the George Eastman House permanent collection.
In 2010, David Leland Hyde, Philip Hyde’s son and executor of his estate, contacted the previous curator of the George Eastman Museum to inquire as to the status of the three silver prints in the permanent collection and gather more information from the museum records about the 1957 show. The museum did not yet have the Philip Hyde black and white prints digitalized for the catalog of some of its holdings online, but the staff confirmed they still existed in the museum’s collection.
Now in 2016, to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service, the George Eastman Museum presents Photography and America’s National Parks, an “exhibition exploring the role of photography in the development of the parks and in shaping our perception and understanding of these landscapes.”
From the early pioneers such as Alvin Langdon Coburn, Frank Jay Haynes, William Henry Jackson, the Kolb Brothers, Eadweard Muybridge and Carleton Watkins to the modernists including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Philip Hyde to contemporary photographers such as Marion Balanger, Binh Danh, Sean McFarland, Sharon Harper, Mark Klett, Abelardo Morell, David Benjamin Sherry and Byron Wolfe, exhibition curator Jamie M. Allen drew primarily from the George Eastman Museum collection to illuminate the history of the most significant national parks from the 1860s to the present. The exhibition also includes works on loan that broaden and deepen the presentation, as well as George Eastman’s travel albums from his trips to national parks.
To compliment the exhibition, the museum is co-publishing a book with Aperture titled, Picturing America’s National Parks, with introductory essay by Jamie M. Allen discussing the relationship between the parks and photography, available in June from the museum store and online at Eastman.org/store.
Curator Jamie M. Allen wrote an informed and well-written article about the history of photography in the national parks for the March/April issue of Antiques, The Magazine. David Leland Hyde also wrote about the exhibition for the June issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine. The same June national parks special issue of Outdoor Photographer, is graced by a cover photograph by Carr Clifton, protégé of Philip Hyde, and a special feature article by David Leland Hyde about Philip Hyde’s role in conservation campaigns that helped establish or expand more national parks and wilderness lands than any other photographer. The June special issue of Outdoor Photographer will be on newsstands this Tuesday. Here is more information on the Exhibition Preview and other Events.