Expanded Field: Photography from the Collection of the NBMAA

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954), Untitled, 2000, Cibachrome print, 32 1/2 x 22 in., Members Purchase Fund


Expanded Field: Photography from the Collection of the NBMAA

The New Britain Museum of American Art began collecting photography in the 1970s, and over the course of four decades, has amassed over 500 works dating from the 1840s to today. Expanded Field: Photography from the Collection of the NBMAA represents the most extensive photography survey in the Museum’s history, presenting over 140 highlights from the Museum’s holdings by iconic American artists including Eadweard J. Muybridge, Dorothea Lange, Garry Winogrand, Irving Penn, Cindy Sherman, and many others.

The exhibition provides a chronological overview, beginning with some of the earliest American practitioners including Eadweard J. Muybridge, Frederic Gideon Platt, Nelson August Moore, and others who in the mid-1800s pioneered the use of daguerreotypes, tin types, direct glass plate positives, collotypes, and gelatin silver prints. The exhibition explores the work of early 20th-century artists such as Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange, who utilized their cameras to work toward social reform by documenting poverty, child labor, and other abuses throughout the nation. These artists inspired a growing involvement in photo journalism and documentary photography—highlighted by the work of Danny Lyon, Lou Stouman, Bill Owens, Louis Stettner, and Linda McCartney—as well as an outgrowth of “street” photography by artists including Larry Fink and Garry Winogrand.

A counterpoint to documentary-style photography, Expanded Field explores the work of photographers who purposely stage or manipulate their depictions of figurative subjects to explore or reveal ideals of beauty, the construction of identity, and psychological or emotional aspects not otherwise apparent in “straight” photography. These range from fashion photography by Horst P. Horst to contemporary portraiture and figurative works by Jimmy Desana, Dawoud Bey, Iké Udé, and Cindy Sherman.

Among other themes addressed in the exhibition include place, still life, and abstraction. Expanded Field: Photography from the Collection of the NBMAA reflects the evolution of American photography, its key figures, and the commitment of this institution to celebrate this art form in its myriad permutations.