In 1967, the NGV established the first separate curatorial Department of Photography in an Australian art gallery and since that time we have delivered a continuous program of exhibitions and publications featuring the rich history of photography. The heart of our activities is based on the permanent collection which now numbers over 15,000 photographs, of which 3,000 works are by international artists. 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of our first acquisitions to the collection and, as such, it is timely to ‘re-view’ what has been achieved.
In celebration of this anniversary Re-view offers the opportunity to enjoy a small selection of some of the great international photographs we have collected. Selected from each decade of the medium’s history from the 1840s onwards, this exhibition shows the evolution of this unique art form through some of its best loved and most remarkable images. Every photograph chosen has a distinct story to tell, not only about what is shown but also about the place the work has in the artist’s career; how it relates to photographic history; and its cultural and social context.
From looking at this exhibition it is also possible to chart two dominant creative strategies that photographers have taken throughout the last 170 years. For some, photography is a documentary medium that allows a creative treatment of reality, while, for others, the medium is a construction or fabrication that exists as much in the artist’s mind as in reality. It is the tension between these two approaches that animates much of photographic history and continues to fuel passionate debates
Artists included are William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Nadar, László Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, Ansel Adams, Robert Frank, Boyd Webb and Yee I-Lann.