Light Sensitive in the Nasher at Duke

A search through photography collections in the Research Triangle of North Carolina has led to a major exhibition of work at Duke’s Nasher Museum in Durham.

“We wanted to get to know the collectors in our area, and we were shocked at what we found,” says Sarah Schroth, interim director at the museum and co-curator of the show.  “We went to 10 private homes and a few public collections, and then had to stop.”

From the original 200 photos she selected with Patricia Leighten, her co-curator and a professor of photography at Duke, they narrowed the exhibition down to 106 color and black & white images.  They call it Light Sensitive.

“I was blown away by what we found,” says Leighton.  “We drew from 12 collections, with something from every decade since the 1840s.  The 19th century is scattered throughout the show.”

That’s because the pair chose not to organize the exhibition chronologically, but to arrange it into five categories in as many galleries.  They are: Light Magic, Intensified Vision, Metamorphosis, Emulations and Constructed Identities. The images are bold, innovative and committed to engaging the viewer.

One of the more intriguing – even alarming – images is Sally Mann‘s Candy Cigarette in the Constructed Identities gallery.  “It walks a fine line of using her child as a model,” says Schroth.  “This is a young girl portrayed as sexy, with a cigarette like a movie star – but it’s a candy cigarette.  The way she’s holding it and confronting the camera – it’s a constructed identity for that sitter.”

Leighton, an art historian who focuses on modernism, looks at the exhibition as a way to portray photography as art, and earn it recognition as such.

“It’s about how photographers are working to shape the experience of the viewers,” she says.  “They shape their work based on what they’re thinking or feeling, and what they want the viewer to take away.”

Anyone who wants to experience that will have to hurry, though.  The show opened in mid-February, and runs only through this Saturday, May 12.

For more information, go to

[slideshow id=919]

Photography Credits:

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Madrid. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches. Collection of Jim and Jane Finch. Image courtesy of Magnum Photos. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum.

Larry Fink, This Sporting Life, September 1978 from the series Primal Elegance, 1978. Gelatin silver print, 21 ½ x 21 ¼ inches. Private collection. © Larry Fink.

Anthony Goicolea, Guardian, 2008. Chromogenic print face mounted on Plexiglas, 40 x 93 inches. Collection of Allen Thomas, Jr. © Anthony Goicolea. Courtesy of Postmasters Gallery, New York, NY.

Vera Lutter, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn: June 26, 1996, 1996. Unique gelatin silver print mounted on canvas, 92 x 55 1/2 inches (233.7 x 141 cm). Collection of Dr. W. Kent Davis. ©Vera Lutter.

Roger Minick, Woman at Inspiration Point, Yosemite, 1980. Inkjet print, 19 x 22 inches. Collection of Charles Weinraub and Emily Kass. © 1980 Roger Minick. Courtesy of Jan Kesner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

Richard Misrach, Submerged Gazebo, Salton Sea, California, 1984 (printed 1997). Chromogenic print, edition 5/10, 30 x 40 inches. Collection of the Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. © Richard Misrach. Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

Olivia Parker, Miss Appleton’s Shoes II, 1976 (printed 1981). Selenium toned gelatin silver contact print, 4 x 5 inches (10.2 x 12.7 cm). Collection of Frank Konhaus and Ellen Cassilly/The Cassilhaus Collection. ©Olivia Parker. Courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, IL.

Hugo Tillman, Mrs. Brown Warburton, 2004. Chromogenic print on Fujiflex paper, 40 x 30 inches (101.6 x 76.2 cm). Collection of Lawrence Wheeler and Donald Doskey. ©Hugo Tillman. Courtesy of Nohra Haime Gallery, New York, NY.

James Fee, Crossed Wires, 1998 (printed 2000). Toned gelatin silver print, edition 7/10, 27 x 27 ¾ inches (68.58 x 70.5 cm). Collection of Frank Konhaus and Ellen Cassilly/The Cassilhaus Collection.

Nancy Rexroth, A Woman’s Bed, Logan, Ohio, 1970. Gelatin silver print made with a Diana camera, 18 ¾ x 15 ½ inches (47.6 x 39.37 cm). Collection of Frank Konhaus and Ellen Cassilly/The Cassilhaus Collection.