Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. was an influential art curator, patron and collector. In 1973, with the assistance of his lover Robert Mapplethorpe, Wagstaff came to believe that art photography was significantly undervalued.
Over the next decade, he assembled one of the most important private collections of photographs in the world, which helped raise the profile of the medium and the price of photographic work. When he sold his collection to the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1984, it became the cornerstone of the Museum’s newly formed Department of Photographs.
This exhibition presents a selection of Wagstaff’s collection that spans the history of photography, from neglected French photographers of the 1850s to modernists Man Ray and Edward Weston to late 20th-century photographers Larry Clark, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Peter Hujar.
Exhibition overview from the Getty Museum website
Whether you go or not, The Thrill of the Chase: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum was published to accompany this exhibition. Selected from Wagstaff's extraordinary collection of 26,000 photographs, the 147 works reproduced in this volume include masterpieces as well as images from obscure sources: daguerreotypes, cartes-de-visite, and stereographs, plus mug shots, medical photographs, and works by unknown makers. The latter category contains some of the most outstanding objects in the collection.