Photographers love Arizona for its panoramic vistas and striking geological features, but few outside the field may realize that the state is also home to a notable institution that helps preserve and advance photography itself — the Center for Creative Photography at University of Arizona.
A new exhibition documenting the center’s evolution is on display now at the Phoenix Art Museum.
“It is a world-class collection. We have researchers who come from all over the world to study the photographs, papers and items in the center’s archive,” says Becky Senf, Norton Family Curator of Photography at the Phoenix Art Museum.
Founded in 1975 by famed American photographer Ansel Adams and then-UA president John Schaefer, the Center for Creative Photography started with the work of five major American photographers, the “old guard,” so to speak: Adams, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind and Frederick Sommer.
Thirty-five years later, it holds 90,000 photographs by a wide range of mostly 20th-century North American photographers and more than 4 million archived pieces, such as cameras, negatives, journals and personal correspondence.
“Ansel Adams didn’t want a museum to Ansel Adams. He wanted a place were people could study the medium of photography. He believed in it as an art form, and he had a vision for a place where you could have a dialogue about what was going on in photography, where students could study the work of the great photographers, where historians could read the letters and other papers and know exactly what had happened at a certain time,” says Senf.
The Phoenix exhibition, called “Creative Continuum: The History of Center for Creative Photography,” features nearly 90 photographs, organized by decade, from Adams, Richard Avedon, Louis Carlos Bernal, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Bullock, Callahan, Tseng Kwong Chi, Imogen Cunningham, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Roy DeCarava, Siskind, Sommer, Edward Weston and Andy Warhol. Each is chosen to represent the best of each artist’s work and to illustrate the breadth of the center’s collection.
“It has so many works chronicling the 20th century that any important issue, like the civil rights movement, gets recorded, and the collection becomes an incredible resource. We are collecting material that will answer questions we aren’t even asking yet. Twenty or 40 years from now, whatever questions scholars or photography students are asking, this will all be there, waiting with the answers to questions we haven’t begun to ask,” says Senf.
“Creative Continuum” also includes archival items and video interviews with photographers, historians and curators.
It will be on display during regular museum hours through Nov. 28.
If you go
What: “Creative Continuum: The History of Center for Creative Photography” features nearly 90 photographs by major American photographers such as Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind and Frederick Sommer.
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Nov. 28
Where: Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Cost: $8-$10 adults, $4 kids ages 6-17, free for children 5 and younger
Information: (602) 257-1222 or www.phxart.org