The Addison Gallery Preview: “Frame by Frame”

The Addison Gallery of American Art will be unveiling one of the three winter exhibitions on Saturday, “Frame by Frame: Photographic Series and Portfolios from the Collection.”

The exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to observe the transformation of twentieth century documentary photography by focusing on interdecadal themes such as the 1970s American suburban migration and the 1930s Harlem inner-city culture.

“Frame by Frame” was curated by Allison Kemmerer, Addison curator, to showcase how widespread photography was even before it was considered a form of visual art.

“This [exhibition] was a way to explore the whole idea of photo series and photographic essays and what that means at the time. [We also wanted to] show some of the really important, significant [photographic] works that we own,” said Kemmerer.

The featured photographic portfolios span four decades and were captured in over 3,000 miles of United States territory. The exhibit will be set up in chronological order, beginning with abstract expressionist photographer Aaron Siskind’s exploration of the 1930s Harlem culture in the photo series “Harlem Document” and concluding with William Eggleston’s experimental exploration of colored photography by capturing everyday objects in “14 Pictures.”

Along with a few photographic portfolios, the exhibition will also feature six photographic series including Bill Owens’ and William Eggleston’s nostalgic photographs of their home states in the series “Suburbia” and “Alabama Pictures,” respectively.

For the first time in approximately fifteen years, “The Americans,” the portfolio of Swiss photographer Robert Frank, will be exhibited, wrote Brian Allen, Director of the Addison Gallery, in an e-mail to Andover students.

Frank pioneered the “snapshot” style of photography by producing many deceptively simple but influential photographs during his nationwide tour of the United States, according to Kemmerer.

“Robert Frank was really revolutionary because he introduced the idea of the snapshot that was grainy. Before then, [snapshot photography] would have been considered ‘bad photography.’ He [ended up influencing] a whole new generation of artists,” said Kemmerer.

Since many of the photographs were taken at the beginning of the twentieth century, a time when photography was not recognized as an art form, all of the featured artists were revolutionaries, Kemmerer said.

“All of these works are of their time, and are interesting snippets of American culture at a particular moment in time, but I think each of them also offers something universal,” she added.

Kemmerer invites Andover students and aspiring photographers everywhere to learn from the series displayed in “Frame by Frame.”

“[The series] offer windows into periods of reflection on identity, posing questions such as, ‘What does it mean to be American?’ ‘What is American culture?’ and ‘What is universal?” These are themes that come up again and again in photography,” said Kemmerer.