Exhibition: ‘Seeing Ourselves: Masterpieces of American Photography from George Eastman House Collections’ at the Paine Art Center, Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Exhibition dates: 6th June – 11th October 2009


I wish I could see this exhibition!

Many thankx to the Paine Art Center for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.




Alvin Langdon Coburn (English born United States, 1882-1966)
The Singer Building, New York
c. 1910
Gum bichromate over platinum print


Edward Weston. 'Nautilus' 1927


Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 by 7 1/2 in. (24 by 19cm)



Like their painter counterparts, many photographers experimented with abstraction in the 1920s and 1930s, exploring relations of form, tonality, and space. Here, Weston isolates a nautilus shell against a solid black ground, creating a study of curves, subtle shadows, and contrasts between light and dark. As in many of his close-ups of natural forms, the nautilus appears both recognisable and yet strangely unfamiliar. Unlike the rigorously nonrepresentational compositions of photographers like László Moholy-Nagy, Weston’s abstractions always remained grounded in objects from the real world; as he wrote in 1930, “To see the Thing Itself is essential.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website


Nautilus is now recognised as one of Weston’s greatest photographs, but all of his images of shells have a greater-than-life quality to them. Weston biographer Ben Maddow has said that what is so remarkable about them “is not in the closeness nor in the monumentality of the forms; or at least, not in these alone. It is instead in the particular light, almost an inward luminescence, that he saw implicit in them before he put them before the lens. Glowing with an interior life … one is seeing more than form.”

Text from the Wikipedia website


Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874–1940) 'Italian Family Looking for Lost Baggage, Ellis Island' 1905


Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Italian family looking for lost baggage, Ellis Island
Gelatin silver print



The largest exhibition of masterpieces of American photography ever presented in Wisconsin, Seeing Ourselves features over a hundred iconic images from the internationally acclaimed George Eastman House Collections of Rochester, New York. This extraordinary exhibition dramatically illustrates our country’s landscape, people, culture, and historic events through works ranging from vast western scenes to fascinating documentary photographs to intimate celebrity portraits. Artists represented include such masters of the medium as Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, and dozens of other accomplished photographers.

Spanning more than 150 years of photography, Seeing Ourselves is organised according to five broad themes: American Masterpieces, American Faces, America at War, America the Beautiful, and American Families. Each section features renowned photographs documenting the American experience. The exhibition begins with “American Masterpieces,” which sheds light on celebrated images like Yosemite Valley, Summer by Ansel Adams, Nautilus by Edward Weston, and The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz. Other highlights include Oshkosh native Lewis Hine’s Powerhouse Mechanic, a dynamic image symbolising the arrival of a new Industrial Age, and Dorothea Lange’s unforgettable photograph Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, which gave a human face to poverty and suffering during the Great Depression.

“American Faces” illustrates the diversity of our nation, including subjects ranging from Native Americans whose ancestors have lived here for thousands of years to immigrants at Ellis Island who had just arrived in America that day. Photographs of everyday people are juxtaposed with portraits of illustrious political and civil rights leaders, artists, celebrities, and athletes, including Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Marilyn Monroe, Babe Ruth, and many other familiar faces. Master photographers who portrayed these individuals include Mathew Brady, Edward S. Curtis, Walker Evans, Richard Avedon, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Steichen.

Some of the most famous, memorable, and shocking images in the history of American photography are photographs of war. While photographs of war may be difficult to look at, they serve as an important record of America’s past. “America at War” displays images from the American Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, as well as contemporary photographs created in response to 9/11.

“America the Beautiful” features timeless photographs that capture the beauty and power of unspoiled nature, as well as scenes of westward expansion, urban America, and the intimate spaces we call home. Dramatic images of Alaskan glaciers, majestic western views, and tranquil dunes are contrasted with big-city skyscrapers, small-town neighborhoods, and backyard gardens. Major works in this section include Alvin Langdon Coburn’s beautifully atmospheric view of New York’s Singer Building and landscapes by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

The final section, “American Families,” brings together families from all walks of life, exploring their differences and commonalities. A variety of examples by such notable photographers as Weegee, Lewis Hine, Aaron Siskind, Margaret Bourke-White, and Mary Ellen Mark are included. Some works portray idealised scenes of American life, while others capture a glimpse of everyday life and the serious challenges many families face, such as poverty or illness. Highlights include Hine’s photograph of an Italian family seeking lost luggage at Ellis Island and a tender portrait of a mother and son from the series Black in America by Eli Reed, an award-winning member of Magnum, the prestigious photojournalists’ cooperative.

Seeing Ourselves: Masterpieces of American Photography from George Eastman House Collections is organised by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film and is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the American Masterpieces program. George Eastman House is the world’s oldest photography museum, founded in 1947 on the estate of Kodak founder George Eastman, the father of popular photography. The museum has unparalleled collections of 400,000 photographs from 14,000 photographers dating from the beginnings of the medium to the present day.”

Text from The Paine Art Center website [Online] Cited 01/07/2009 no longer available online


Benedict J. Fernandez. 'Dick Gregory with MLK [Martin Luther King, JR.] New Politics Convention, Chicago, ILL. October, 1967' 1967


Benedict J. Fernandez (American, 1936-2021)
Dick Gregory with MLK [Martin Luther King, JR.] New Politics Convention, Chicago, ILL. October, 1967
Gelatin silver print


Eli Reed. 'A Mother and Her Son at Her Home In Bed Sty in Brooklyn' ca. 1990


Eli Reed (American, b. 1946)
A Mother and Her Son at Her Home In Bed Sty in Brooklyn
c. 1990
Gelatin silver print


Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park' c. 1937


Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Yosemite Valley, Summer
Gelatin silver print


Nikolas Muray (American, 1892-1965) 'Babe Ruth' 1945


Nikolas Muray (American, 1892-1965)
Babe Ruth
Gelatin silver print
13 3/8 x 10 7/16″ (33.9 x 26.5cm)


Lewis Hine. 'Powerhouse mechanic working on steam pump' 1920


Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Powerhouse mechanic working on steam pump
Gelatin silver print


Alfred Stiegitz (American, 1864-1946) 'The Steerage' 1907


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
The Steerage
Gelatin silver print


Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California' 1936


Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
Gelatin silver print



Paine Art Center and Gardens
1410 Algoma Blvd, Oshkosh, WI

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday
 11.00am – 4.00pm
Closed Mondays and major holidays

Paine Art Center website

George Eastman House website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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