Less than a decade after the public announcement of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot issued the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs, The Pencil of Nature, released in volumes from 1844-1846. The reproduction of the photographic image for commercial publication was significant, for it illustrated myriad ways in which photography could be used and applied to everyday life—among them, an illustration of the natural world, a document of ordinary people, places, and experiences, and a way to capture and preserve what was difficult to observe with the naked eye.
Photography became part of the public imagination in concert with the mid-nineteenth century’s interest in vision and representation. The production of photographic images and their relative availability to a widening audience democratized how one was represented and experienced the world around them in a way that a painting did not. The proliferation of photography created a visual record that purported to show things as they were, although that interpretation has always been in the eye of the photographer and viewer. Contemporary photography continues traditions established in the early years of the medium, a desire to create a complex visual narrative, tell untold stories, and make unexpected connections with ordinary spaces and places.
Found in Collection also comments on the found vernacular object, repurposed when the photographer imbues new meaning in the image. In this vein, everyday spaces—storefronts, houses, hallways, cemeteries—gain new context when inserted into the narrative of contemporary photography. This exhibition, one of two parts, explores the role of the photograph as a recorder of the observed world and contributes to the photographic narrative through the lens of select works from the museum’s permanent collection.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.