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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Photography Finally Comes Into its Own at the MFA

As part of its renovations the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has opened it’s first gallery devoted solely to photographic works. The Museum of Fine Arts has had photography exhibitions in the past but has never had a permanent exhibition even though they were one of the first museums to collect photographs as works of art. The new Herb Ritts and Clementine Haas Michel Brown Galleries are located on the first floor of the west wing of the museum where the Meso-American art collection was previously displayed.

The inaugural exhibition is a collection of about 75 works drawn from the museum’s collection as well as loans from a few local private collections. As the first subjects of early photographers were people the photographs selected for the exhibit consist of images of the human body in the form of portraits, abstracted images, and fragmentary images. The artists isolated parts of the body, predominantly the hands or feet, for their images or focused in on a single part of the body or posed their model in such a way that the resulting photograph looks like an abstract image upon first viewing and make take some time for the image to be recognizable to the viewer. All the photographs presented in the exhibit are black and white with a handful in color, and developed from a variety of processes.

The images in the Herb Ritts gallery consist mainly of fragmentary images of the body, mainly hands, with a few portrait-like images. One artist even photographed his own retinas with the aid of a microscope to create two highly abstract photographs placed side by side that unless one reads the accompanying placard the image makes no sense in the context of the exhibition. The photographs in the Brown Gallery are half nudes and half, almost traditional, portraiture. All the images in the exhibition are from the 20th Century, except for a display in the Brown Gallery containing a few French nudes from the 1800’s to serve as a comparison between early and contemporary photography.

Almost all the artists in the exhibit have only one example of their work on display; a few have two images and only a couple have more than that. Many of the names are not familiar to most people but a few well know photographers have work on display such as Man Ray, Sally Mann, Arno Minkkinen, and Yousuf Karsh. Many of the photographs are reminiscent of expressionist art and many of the photographers were painters before they became devoted to capturing images with the camera. The first exhibit in the new Herb Ritts Gallery is on display until May, so you have plenty of time to go see it, the MFA will be starting it’s special holiday events soon so go and see the new photography gallery when you stop by to see what they’re planning for the holidays.