When it comes to photography “Denver is a mile high and an inch deep,” said one of my former college professors. He was right. Last week I checked out the Denver Art Museum’s newest photo exhibit “Exposure” and I left with more questions than experiences.
The museum has an archive of over 7000 photographs. “Exposure” contains 50 of these. That’s right, just 50. I have a hard time believing that the DAM can’t afford to put more of these photos on display. What is the point of having 7000 photos in storage? The museum has recently hired a full time curator just for photography. Why hasn’t he stood up and said we need more space devoted to photography? The exhibit sits on the seventh floor, in a single room of the old museum. One room. How is Denver supposed to take photography seriously when the placement of the exhibit seems like an afterthought? I would love (and I’m sure I’m not alone) to see what did not make it into the exhibit.
That being said, it wasn’t all bad. There are some great photos by Garry Winogrand. If you are unfamiliar with Winogrand’s work it is worth checking out. He shot tons of great black and white “street photography” photos during the 50’s and 60’s. Unfortunately most of the books featuring his work are long out of print. If you can find one for under $100 you should pick it up. You won’t be disappointed. Besides Winogrand’s work, there wasn’t a lot that I hadn’t seen before.
Should you go check out the exhibit or not? Even though it is small, filled mostly with black and white photos and is clearly not a representation of the depth of the photos in the archive, I would still say yes. Go for the Winogrand, go for the Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise”, go for the Chuck Close “Self Portrait”. More importantly go to the exhibit to show Denver that we take photography seriously and then demand that more of those photographs be permanently on display.