Feb 18 Thu 10am Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World (Feb 19-May 30)

Though one or two exhibits here are intriguing – the photograph of the ornate marriage certificate available to New Yorkers in the distant past was a striking record of how well things were done in a less frantic age – it must be said that this was one of the very few Morgan shows which generally lacked enough interesting and significant content to justify long perusal by the general public, but those with a strong personal interest in photography’s factual historical record and the camera’s technical development will be rewarded.

Sentimental souvenirs: Frank I. Stofflet Certificate of Marriage Between George M. Stipley and Evelyn B. Walton 1892 Albumen silver prints George Eastman Museum Gift of 3M Foundation (left) and Certificate of Marriage between Daniel W. Gibbs and Matilda B. Pierce c1874 Tintypes George Eastman Museum


Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World
February 19 through May 30, 2016

**Press Preview: Thursday, February 18, 10-11:30 AM**
RSVP: media@themorgan.org

New York, NY, January 11, 2016—As its name declares, photography is a means of writing with light. Photographs both show and tell, and they speak an extraordinary range of dialects.

Beginning February 19 the Morgan Library & Museum explores the history of the medium as a lucid, literate—but not always literal—tool of persuasion in a new exhibition, Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World. A collaboration with the George Eastman Museum of Film and Photography, the show features more than eighty works from the 1840s to the present and reveals the many ways the camera can transmit not only the outward appearance of its subject but also narratives, arguments, and ideas. The show is on view through May 30.

Over the past 175 years, photography has been adopted by, and adapted to, countless fields of endeavor, from art to zoology and from fashion to warfare. Sight Reading features a broad range of material—pioneering x-rays and aerial views, artifacts of early photojournalism, and recent examples of conceptual art—organized into groupings that accentuate the variety and suppleness of photography as a procedure. In 1936, artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) defined “the illiterate of the future” as someone “ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen.” The JPEG and the “Send” button were decades away, but Moholy-Nagy was not the first observer to argue that photography belonged to the arts of commentary and persuasion. As the modes and motives of camera imagery have multiplied, viewers have continually learned new ways to read the information, and assess the argument, embodied in a photograph.

A photo taken with one exposure to light from a stroboscope by Harold Edgerton (1903-1990), electrical engineer. Gun Toss 1936-50 Gelatin silver print

“Traditional narratives can be found throughout the Morgan’s collections, especially in its literary holdings,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan. “Sight Reading encourages us to use a critical eye to read and discover the stories that unfold through the camera lens and photography, a distinctly modern, visual language. We are thrilled to collaborate with the Eastman Museum, and together unravel a rich narrative, which exemplifies photography’s deep involvement in the stories of modern art, science, and the printed page.”

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