In a new exhibit in Austin, the history of photography clicks forward

Among the more than 5 million items in its renowned photo collection, the University of Texas’ Ransom Center claims the world’s first photograph (made in 1826 or 1827) and keeps it on permanent display.

The center is particularly rich with photographs from 19th-century including the work Victorian pioneers such as Lewis Carroll and Julia Margaret Cameron.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). Alice Liddell and her two sisters. Albumen print, c. 1859. Harry Ransom Center.
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). Alice Liddell and her two sisters. Albumen print, c. 1859. Harry Ransom Center.

Thankfully the Ransom Center isn’t resting on its laurels.

In a new exhibit opening today, the research archive unveils some of its especially important recent acquisitions of contemporary innovators whose experiments with photographic process push the medium forward.

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Penelope Umbrico (American, b. 1957), Moving Mountains #108, from the series Range, 2015. Color inkjet print, 8 x 8 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Endowment in Photography © Penelope Umbrico

Starting today and continuing through May 29, nearly 200 photographs go on display for the first time in Look Inside: New Photography Acquisitions.

Photography curator Jessica S. McDonald has done a very admiral job of adding photographs to the collection that continue the story of what could be considered a very democratic art form.

McDonald unveils work made during particularly vibrant periods in the medium’s artistic evolution, such as the American “photo boom” of the 1960s and 1970s during which artist like Betty Hahn who shook up the formalities of the medium.

Betty Hahn (American, b. 1940), Starry Night Variation #2, from the series Who Was that Masked Man? I Wanted to Thank Him, 1977. Screenprint, 22 x 18 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Endowment in Photography © Betty Hahn Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center.
Betty Hahn (American, b. 1940), Starry Night Variation #2, from the series Who Was that Masked Man? I Wanted to Thank Him, 1977. Screenprint, 22 x 18 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Endowment in Photography © Betty Hahn

Also now a part of the Ransom Center’s story of the history of photography are images by current artists like Alejandro Cartagena who offer a vision that is decidedly contemporary.

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, 1977), Carpoolers 49, 2011–2012. Color inkjet print, 22 x 14 1/4 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the David Douglas Duncan Endowment for Photojournalism © Alejandro Cartagena
Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, 1977), Carpoolers 49, 2011–2012. Color inkjet print, 22 x 14 1/4 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the David Douglas Duncan Endowment for Photojournalism © Alejandro Cartagena

Admission to the Ransom Center is free and it’s open every day of the week.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays (Thursdays until 7 p.m.), noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Harry Ransom Center, 300 W. 21st St. hrc.utexas.edu

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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