New Acquisitions in Photography

Online Tours Apr. 20, 2020

For today’s tour, we’re exploring highlights from the first gallery installation dedicated to our photography collection. These images, acquired over the past five years, include work by women, artists of color, and Pittsburgh artists.

Enjoy the tour of these eye-catching and thought-provoking photos.

A close-up view of a person from shoulders to hips, relaxing against an old-fashioned floral backdrop wearing low-slung jeans and no shirt
Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Untitled, 2014, Carnegie Museum of Art

We’ll kick off this tour with a photograph by Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, whose work also appeared in the 2018 Carnegie International. Ng’ok is a Kenyan photographer who is known for her use of color and composition to highlight moments of emotion and interiority. Her work has been described by Hyperallergic as “memory-meets-observation-meets-dream life.” This photograph was taken during her time traveling around the world while participating in various artist residency programs. Ng’ok keeps some details about the subject and background hidden, capturing a sense of nostalgia for this unspecified place and the impossibility of ever returning to the same moment.

“My journey is one in which I discover the intimacy of places, the nostalgia of cities, and the streets remembered throughout heartbreak (…) The photographs are not about one country, one city or one place, but are an emotional cartography of where I have been.”—Mimi Cherono Ng’ok

A color photograph depicting a person wearing a loose, long-sleeved denim dress stretches out on a grassy patch of ground
Sam Contis, Denim Dress, 2014, Carnegie Museum of Art

Continuing our tour through the photography gallery, let’s move on to Sam Contis. Contis, a Pittsburgh native, took this image in Deep Springs, a remote college in central California that teaches its students ranching, cattle-herding, and farming skills alongside more traditional liberal arts pursuits.

Her photographs, including this portrait of a Deep Springs student, explore popular notions of the American West and upend some of the stereotypes about cowboys.

A symmetrical, intricate lace pattern in monochrome shades
Lisa Oppenheim, Leisure Work III (Top), 2013, Carnegie Museum of Art

Lisa Oppenheim focuses on the intricate mechanical processes of cameras and the hidden history of women’s work in her artistic practice. This photogram, which is made by placing an object directly onto photographic paper and exposing it to light, was created with a piece of antique lace.

Its title, Leisure Work, is a reference to the designation of labor performed by women in 19th-century Belgium as “leisure,” which meant that they were kept off of the tax rolls and therefore unable to vote in elections.

A 5x5 grid showing different species of moths in a variety of colors, shapes, and ornamentation
Emmet Gowin, Index No. 10, February 2007, Ecuador, 2007, Carnegie Museum of Art
I like to think that in order for any of us to really do anything new, we can’t know exactly what it is we are doing.
Emmet Gowin

Gowin began making photographs of moths more than 15 years ago and became so enthralled with the subject that he traveled to multiple countries in Central and South America in search of rare species. Over the course of this project, Gowin photographed over a thousand different species of live moths. The New Yorker described the moths in this series as representing the “unique marvel of ornamentation.”

A woman wearing a long skirt stands halfway down a long, tall hallway
Vivian Maier, Untitled (woman in colonnade), ca. 1960s, printed 2012, Carnegie Museum of Art

To finish up Tour Tuesday in our photography gallery, we’ll end with this work by Vivian Maier. Maier lived and worked as a nanny in Chicago during the mid–20th century. In her spare time, she made over 150,000 photographs, none of which were shown during her lifetime.

After her death in 2009, a Chicago-based collector discovered her archive at an estate sale and began promoting the work. Her photographs gained further attention in 2013 when a film about her life, Finding Vivian Maier, was nominated for an Academy Award.

Thanks for joining us, and come back next Tuesday to enjoy another digital tour!