Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

Thanks for the (Colorama) Memories…

Posted by on Sep 17 2010 | Exhibitions, Photography

Colorama #553 on disaply in Grand Central Terminal from August 15-September 22, 1988. Photogrpahy by Norm Kerr.

As we enter the last month of our Colorama exhibition at the Museum, we’d like to share some of the stories people have sent us about their own connection to these images— and the times they captured (and manufactured) of a by-gone era. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be blogging some of our favorites entries to close out the exhibit. Our first is from David Spiro, Director of Public Relations and Development of Rochester’s Blackfriars Theatre:

While I have been living here in Rochester for the past eleven years, I am Brooklyn born, Bronx raised, and Grand Central Terminal (GCT) is without a doubt still my favorite building in NYC, hands down. I spent many a time passing through the building for one purpose or another, and every time I go home to visit my family (my mother still lives in the Bronx neighborhood where I was raised) I always try to take the time to go into Manhattan to soak in the energy that only it can offer, visit some of my favorite eateries, and of course take the time to walk through GCT. The Colorama is very much an important part of my memories.

I think the thing that stands out most is the summer of 1979. My aunt was able to get me a summer job working at the property tax office in Brooklyn, repossessing little old ladies houses. (Okay, no I didn’t really do that, as I was just doing basic clerical work.) Most of the time, I took the #6 train from Pelham Bay station in the Bronx, and changed at Grand Central Station for the #4 into Brooklyn. (It’s important to note that “Grand Central Station” refers to the subway station, While GCT refers to the actual terminal above it. )

Once or twice a week however, I would take the express bus from my Bronx neighborhood into Manhattan, get off at the 42nd Street and 5th Avenue stop, and then walk the few blocks to Grand Central to hop the #4. Coming into GCT via the 42nd Street entrance, with the Park Ave. viaduct overhead was my favorite approach. It led you directly to the main concourse area of the terminal where you could look up at the magnificent ceiling with the constellations in their gold painted glory overhead. There was the famous GCT clock, the main meeting place for so many people, as well as it’s information booth below it, guiding customers to their proper Metro-North train, and during that time, to their Amtrak train.

If you looked to the right, there it was: The Colorama. If it wasn’t the biggest picture in the world, it sure should have been. The pictures would vary every few weeks, from nature, to cityscapes, to people, but the thrill was always wondering what would come next? I always had to pass underneath it to get to the part of the subway platform I need be at, and always marveled at it, wondering how they were able to blow a picture up that enormously? It was also, as its name suggest, bathed in the most glorious saturation of color. One always saw tourists gawking in amazement, and taking pictures of a picture.

While the restoration of GCT was very welcome as it opened up the main concourse to more natural light, the removal of the Colorama (as well as the old clapboard flip-style train arrival/departure board) was a sad event. To hear that it is being donated to the Eastman House was joyous to read, and here’s hoping it goes on prominent display. You can be sure that this Bronx boy will be among the first on line to see it.

Don’t forget to check out our Colorama Story Facebook page for videos of the Colorama photographers, models, and friends sharing their memories (coming Sept. 24th), to browse images from the exhibition, and to post your own story.

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‘Art/Not Art’ showcases What We’re Collecting Now

Posted by on Aug 18 2010 | Exhibitions, Photography, Student Work

Every year a small group of students in the spring semester of their second year of the Photographic Preservation and Collections Management (PPCM) program come together to curate a show of recent acquisitions at George Eastman House. This show is designed to illustrate the ways in which the George Eastman House collection is a “living” entity. How we interpret the mission of the museum, to tell the story of photography and motion pictures — “media that have changed and continue to change our perception of the world” — results in the acquisition of new objects that can reinforce strengths of the collection, or suggests new ways of interpreting items already in the collection.

PPCM students discuss sequencing pieces in the exhibition

As students studying the history of photography, we were interested in photographs that are slippery, that change meaning depending on where the image is first encountered or how it is presented. We are lucky at George Eastman House that we collect a large range of photographs, art and otherwise, that have had a multitude of meanings throughout their existence before entering our collection. Our title, Art/Not Art, refers to the polarizing question we often ask of photographs, is it art or is it not?

Many of the photographs shown in Art/Not Art are art photographs, according to our utilitarian definition of the term, as they were they bought, sold, exhibited, and written about as art. However, this contextual information is not immediately apparent when standing before these photographs. The diversity of practice in contemporary art photography is well represented in the exhibition—the four photographs from Elijah Gowin’s “Of Falling and Floating” series looks radically different from Robert and Sheena ParkeHarrison’s “Suspension,” which in turn bears little in common with Binh Danh’s contemporary daguerreotype, a portrait from the Tuol Seng Genocide Museum.

Robert and Sheena ParkeHarrison, SUSPENSION, From the Series: Earth Elegies, ca. 1999-2000

Perhaps Binh Danh’s daguerreotype should then be compared to Ron Haviv’s “Darfur Girl,” a large-scale chromogenic print depicting three girls searching for firewood near a displaced persons camp in Sudan. In the summer of 2005, UNICEF sponsored Haviv to document the conflict in Darfur’s effect on children. While the composition and the scale suggest that this piece is contemporary art photography, does the use of this image to raise funds for UNICEF mean that it cannot be considered art? And, if Binh Danh’s daguerreotype is art, does that label limit its ability to document genocide?

Ron Haviv, DARFUR GIRL 2005.

Many of the photographs shown in the exhibition have been published in different places, for reasons that are not obvious when looking at the photographs. Joel-Peter Witkin’s series, “A History of Hats in Art,” was initially printed in The New York Times Magazine as a series of fashion photographs featuring extravagant haute-couture headwear. Alex Webb’s “US/Mexico Border (San Ysidro, CA)” was printed in Harper’s Magazine on an article on illegal immigration published roughly fifteen years after the photograph was taken. E.J. Bellocq’s photographs are more mysterious. Bellocq, a commercial photographer from New Orleans in the early twentieth century, took a series of photographs of women from the city’s Storyville red light district. His negatives were discovered after his death, and purchased by Lee Friedlander who printed his images and popularized them as art objects in the 1970s.

This was the first show that many of us have curated, and our approach to the photographs is typical of the questions that we often ask ourselves as future professionals in our field. Given the care and attention that we must provide to each individual item that enters our collection—a process that includes accessioning the item, assessing its condition and recommending conservation work when required, housing the item according to archival standards, cataloguing the item into our electronic database, providing access to the public via the research archives and through exhibitions, and, finally, maintaining it in perpetuity in our ever-shrinking vault—the acquisition process is very rigorous, and very important. So, how best to show the diversity of material that eventually makes it into our collection?

As much as any lovers of photography, we were moved by how stunning some of the items collected in the past five years are. As students of photography, we were also interested in how slippery some of the meanings of the photographs were over time, and in different contexts. The range of aesthetics in art photography, and the different applications of photography, whether for fashion, photojournalism, or for more personal reasons, suggests the impossibility of just looking at a photograph to determine if it is art, or not art.

As future custodians of collections of photography, we encourage an approach to photography that understands the rare slipperiness of the medium of photography, where images and objects often have unknown and unexpected trajectories before they come to our attention as candidates for acquisitions.

What We’re Collecting Now: Art/Not Art was curated by Jami Guthrie, Emily McKibbon, Loreto Pinochet, Paul Sergeant, D’Arcy White, and Soohyun Yang. The exhibit is on view through October 24th.

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Colorama Countdown…

Posted by on Jun 10 2010 | Exhibitions, Other

We’re getting ready for the big event! Here’s the scene from our front lawn today…

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The bulbs are coming! The bulbs are coming!

Posted by on Feb 03 2010 | Exhibitions, House & Gardens

Last fall, we blogged about planting the bulbs to get them ready for February (Tulips and Hyacinths and Daffodils, Oh My!, Oct. 19, 2009). Now in just over a week, spring comes early to the Eastman House when over 2,000 tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, freesias, and amaryllis will be on display for the annual Dutch Connection exhibit. It’s a welcome escape from the Rochester snow each year (especially now that Punxsutawney Phil has predicted 6 MORE weeks of winter).

For those of you in the deep freeze like us in Western NY, we invite you to enjoy this moment of spring color:

a glimpse at last year's display


The 2010 arrangement is based on George Eastman’s own selection from 100 years ago.  He ordered the bulbs from a Dutch company a year early in 1909 and grew them to maturity in his greenhouses.  Once they were organized, he would invite his friends and family to his home to enjoy the colorful display. 

The bulbs will be here February 12-28. A small exhibit will also be presented on the second floor of the house showing Mr. Eastman’s activities throughout 2010.

For  more info,visit

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Where We Live: Rochester Autochromes

Posted by on Aug 24 2009 | Exhibitions, Other

Here is another sneak peek of some gems from the collection that will be on view during the Where We Live exhibition this Fall. This selection shows 3 of the 54 Autochromes by  Charles C. Zoller (American  1854-1934) that will be reproduced and displayed for the exhibition.  Autochromes are extremely sensitive to light so we are not able to exhibit the original object for any length of time. To work around this limitation we are making reproductions on transparency material and will display it on a large wall mounted lightbox. Nothing can recreate the experience of looking at the original object, but the display will be fabulous; seeing Rochester in color in the early 1900 hundreds is pretty cool! The collections at George Eastman House holds approximatly 4000 Autochromes by amateur photographer and Rochesterian, Charles Zoller.  


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