Accompanying Daguerre’s American Legacy: Photographic Portraits (1840-1900) from the Wm. B. Becker Collection in the Kurtz Gallery for Photography at the MIT Museum, we have a program that introduces us to the people and the process of collecting photography in the twenty-first century.
When somebody in MA says “Woodman’s”, my thoughts run to fried seafood and the venerable restaurant that catered many of the clambakes I have been lucky enough to attend. Nice thoughts, but today I visited an entirely different Woodman’s; equally enticing, in a very different way. The Woodman Institute Museum, in Dover, NH is a slice of times gone by, not only because it is a repository of historical artifacts, but because the whole feel of the place seems to bring you back, back to a time when curiosities were housed in glass cases; when the idea of stuffed birds, beasts, shells, rocks, civil war muskets, Japanese armor, antique cameras and whole rooms of dolls being in the same place didn’t seem weird at all. I came for the antique cameras, I stayed far longer than I had planned for the rest of the story.
The photo history part is easy, and offers me a compelling way to recommend this wonderful place to the people who come to sites like this one. The 2014 featured exhibit, up through November at the Woodman Institute Museum, is Tintypes to Digital, celebrating 175 years of Photography. It has been put together by Thom Hindle, charter member of PHSNE, a contributor to the 40th Anniversary Journal and, it turns out, past president of the trustees of Woodman Institute.
Showcasing many pieces from Thom’s own collection, the exhibit actually ranges beyond the title and includes a case filled with Daguerreotypes. Those, along with the many images and displays from the people who made photo history in this part of New England, give the show a life and relevance that is sometimes missing in blockbuster exhibits. It is an intimate and interesting display, varied and rich in detail. Like every other room we visited at the Woodman Institute Museum it is both surprising and just a little outside what you might have expected in a little, local museum in a small mill town in NH. While a case may be made for the more environmentally accurate and modern displays of large, public museums, especially when it comes to stuffed animals, there is also a lot to recommend this throw back to a time when folks might line up to see a four legged chicken.
Visit it and don’t be in a rush. There are at least three buildings here, and multiple floors in two of them. The staff is as warm and welcoming as they can be and the whole experience will make you smile.
The mailbox for a PHSNE president gets filled up with lots of notices, some far more interesting than others. Two notices of events that have come in lately have caught my eye. The first, locally located, looks to be a great chance to see the art and craft of photography as it is practiced by those who would live, and ply their trade, in the northeast corners of MA.
Lowell Photography Weekend is a multivenue photography event taking place in Lowell Massachusetts on May 17 and 18, 2014. Thirteen Lowell galleries, museums and businesses will be hosting photographic exhibitions.
The second, which is from far-away Vienna, is about books of the stuff; those collected works, essays about the collected works and diverse collections of images strung together and put into cloth covers, to be neatly stored on shelves.
Date: Saturday, June 14, 2014, 10 am – 8 pm with party afterwards and Sunday, June 15, 2014, 10 am – 6 pm
Location: AnzenbergerGallery and OstLicht. Galerie für Fotografie Absberggasse 27, 1100 Vienna, Austria (Brotfabrik Wien)
This appears to be a very different beast, perhaps because of the scale of the undertaking, perhaps because of it’s international flavor and emphasis on big names and presumably high price tags, perhaps due to the nature of the objects themselves–collections, packaged goods. I do not mean to denigrate the photo book; as an art form it has much to recommend it as it gives us an artist a sort of long-form option, like an entire gallery full of themed work all within one manageable, portable device. (A website filled with art may be much the same in content and intent, but it’s not the same thing, really, is it?) All books are, to my mind, wonderful things, and a book of photographs has the possibility to be twice as fine. A festival celebrating such things must be very fine indeed. The Viennese do know how to throw a party, and the email blast for PhotoBookfestival says “this year will also feature a framework programme with DJ lineup, Bars and plenty of food.”
If PHSNE had a large slush fund for travel and publicity, the President could attend each of these events, schmoozing and drinking with all the notables while spreading the word of our quiet provincial gatherings here in New England. As it is, I may make the Lowell weekend, even if PHSNE isn’t footing the bill. It somehow seems more fitting than the possibility of me embarrassing PHSNE and myself trying to dance to European Tech music and drinking fluorescent cocktails.