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An Art is Born-Photography from Birth to 100 Years at Detroit Institute of Arts
Edward J. Steichen, Silverware Still Life, 1930; gelatin silver print. Detroit Institute of Arts.

DETROIT, MI.- Imagine a world without photography. Now imagine being alive when photography was invented, and how for the first time, it was possible to view the world through someone else’s eyes. Photography—The First 100 Years: A Survey from the DIA’s Collection looks at the evolution of photography from its beginnings in the 1830s through the experimentation and innovations that led to its acceptance as an art form in the 1940s. The exhibition is on view from September 2, 2009 to January 3, 2010, and is free with museum admission.

During its first 100 years, photography was used for a variety of purposes, including scientific and artistic study, documentation, portraiture, landscape and still life. Exploring the various techniques, styles, and subject matters that followed the 19th century, the exhibition also includes works from the pictorialist era of romantic, soft-focus photography, social documentary works that recorded life in the 1920s and 1930s, and examples of modernism, which explored the use of abstraction as well as the perfection of the black-and-white print.

Some of the oldest and rarest photographs date from the 1840s. Anna Atkins, an early pioneer of photography, published one of the first photographically illustrated books, Photographs of British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions. Also on view is Solider and Companion, a rare portrait of a Civil War-era African American couple by an unknown photographer. This fascinating image captures a young man dressed as a Union soldier with his companion, a woman dressed in the height of 1860s fashion.

Iconic images that have not been on view for years include Victorian-era photographer Julia Margaret Cameron’s portrait of British scientist Sir John Hershel and Dorothea Lange’s poignant Migrant Mother from 1936. Other highlights include Depression-era imagery by Walker Evans and classic works by photographic legends Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and Margaret Bourke-White.

As a special supplement to the Photography—The First 100 Years, photographs from the museum’s collection that illustrate the art of fashion photography will be on view. In conjunction with the exhibition Avedon Fashion Photographs 1944-2000, which opens Oct. 18, the DIA celebrates fashion with work by renowned photographers who helped shape the course of this exciting genre. Photographs by Edward Steichen, William Klein, Bert Stern as well as Richard Avedon among others will be on view in the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography.

During the run of the exhibition, visitors can stop by the DIA’s art studio for a special cyanotype (blueprint) drop-in workshop and create their own blue, ultraviolet-light-developed images.

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