September 07, 2000

Voyages and Visions: Early Photographs from the Wilson Family Collection

Opening October 24, exhibition features finest examples by masters of early travel photography

Los Angeles--In early 1839, the world woke up to the arrival of an entirely new way to make pictures--photography. Voyages and Visions: Early Photographs from the Wilson Family Collection features selected works dating from the emergence of this new medium through the golden age of photography in the 1850s. The exhibition, on view from October 24, 2000, through February 18, 2001, highlights photographs acquired over the past 20 years by prominent collectors Michael and Jane Wilson. Voyages and Visions explores four regions--Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America--through photographs by artists including William Henry Fox Talbot, Roger Fenton, Édouard Baldus, Dr. John Murray, Ernest Benecke, and Desiré Charnay.

As photographic methods were refined and materials improved, photographers ventured further afield in their attempts to document the world. International travel in the mid-19th century required arduously long journeys by road, rail, and ship--especially demanding for the traveling photographer carrying equipment that makes today’s cameras seem miniature by comparison. The Getty exhibition includes a mammoth plate camera (nearly 4 feet long by 2 feet square), of the size used to make many of the photographs being shown.

For those who trekked to remote regions in North Africa, China, and Mexico, photography was both a physical challenge and a source of artistic inspiration. The photographers were keen to record man-made and natural monuments, like places of worship and rock formations, as well as people and scenes of daily life--not only as a personal record of their own journey, but as visual resources for the public who could not travel.

Collectors Michael and Jane Wilson, based in London and Los Angeles, have one of the world’s finest private holdings of photographs from the first decades of the new art. Michael Wilson is an acclaimed screenwriter and best known as a producer of James Bond films. During their travels to scout film locations, the Wilsons became aware of the rarity of photographs made before 1860 outside the European capitals, and began to acquire the best examples they could find.

Voyages and Visions presents over 80 photographs from the Wilson Family Collection, complemented by several examples from the Getty Museum department of photographs for purposes of comparison. "This exhibition captures Michael and Jane Wilson’s great interest in the photographic process and its impact on how people and places are perceived," explains Weston Naef, curator of the Getty’s department of photographs. "Through the Wilson Family Collection, visitors will have a wonderful opportunity to see rare and beautiful photographs, many exhibited for the first time since their creation more than a century ago."

Related Events

Thursday, October 26, 7 p.m.

Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Michael Wilson chronicles his 20 years of collecting photography and discusses the exceptional aspects of one of the world’s finest private holdings of photographs.

Point-Of-View Gallery Talk
Saturday, November 18, 12-1:30 p.m. and 2-3:30 p.m.

Museum Galleries
Stephen Berkman, a Los Angeles-based photographer, will discuss background and techniques with using the mammoth plate camera. Space is limited to 25 people per talk; sign up beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Museum Information Desk.

Concurrent Exhibition

Mexico: From Empire to Revolution
Part I: October 21, 2000-January 21, 2001
Part II: February 24-May 20, 2001
This two-part exhibition of photography taken between the 1850s and 1920s captures the political struggles and everyday life of Mexico. Part I focuses on the empire of Maximilian in the 1860s and the concurrent documentation of the ruins of ancient pre-Hispanic empires by foreign photographers. Research Institute Exhibition Gallery.

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