The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson is considered among the world’s best fine art academic museums and study centers for photography. Over 200 archival collections include the works of master photographers such as Ansel Adams, Frederick Sommer, Aaron Siskind, Edward Weston, Lola Alvarez Bravo and W Eugene Smith among many others.
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Over 5 million objects are in the archives, including negatives, working prints, contact sheets, writing, scrapbooks and other memorabilia. Exhibition catalogues, oral histories and journals round out the research collection. In addition to the archives and research materials, the museum has acquired close to 100,000 fine art photographs by over 2,000 photographers. The Fine Art collection is noted for including the works of the best photographers working in 20th century North America. A Digital Imaging Department at the center is tasked with cataloging each of these works to make more of the prints available for online viewing. The center, in partnership with the Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO), has been a pioneer in making museum collections available online for educational purposes. Archives and manuscripts are available for anyone who would like to access the bibliographies, writings, books, films and dissertations on the photographers in the collection. Oral histories include recorded interviews, lectures, and workshops with the photographers, art historians and scholars. The center shows the collection through rotating exhibits both on location and at the Phoenix Art Museum. The collection is also available for viewing and research by appointment.
History: After a meeting between lauded American photographer Ansel Adams and the University of Arizona president John Schaefer, the Center for Creative Photography opened in 1975 with the archival collections of 5 master photographers who were living at the time, including Adams, Aaron Siskind and Frederick Sommer, Wynn Bullock and Harry Callahan. Schaefer had approached Adams with the suggestion to keep his archives at the University, and Adams agreed with the stipulation that his works would be part of a larger collection. In the 40 years since, the center has become a noted leader in research, teaching and the preservation and appreciation of North America’s greatest photographers.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Programs at the center focus primarily on research and the center’s role as a teaching institution. Research assistance is available for anyone who would like to search the archives, oral histories or rare books and reference materials. A dedicated study center on the 2nd floor, named for the late Laura Volkerding, an American editor and photographer, is open by appointment and offers ample space for anyone working with the archived materials. The center offers a number of fellowships, paid internships and grants for those conducting research in the field of photography. Educator’s guides pair images from the current exhibits with a wide range of curricula. For example, the educator’s guide to the Aaron Siskind and Max Yavno Archives offers studies that explore not only the photographs of Mexico, but language studies, Mexican American studies, history, geography and the differences between documentary and abstract photography. “Indivisible: Stories of American Community” is a national documentary project examining 12 diverse communities in the United States. The curriculum guide explores the vision of the photographers alongside interviews with folklorists and oral historians.
Past and Future Exhibits: Events at the center include lectures, print viewings and book signings. Past events have included a screening of the movie “Infiltrators” by Arizona based artist Khaled Jarrar. The film takes a look at daily life in Palestine. The Ansel Adams birthday celebration was a free event that offered viewings of his prints as well as a lecture with curator Rebecca Senf, who discussed her favorite pieces. Past exhibits included “Recent Acquisitions and From the Vault” which showcased some of the Center’s rarely seen archival materials, as well as fine art prints acquired within the past 18 months, highlighting the power of new acquisitions to complement studies of archival collections. “Performance: Contemporary Photography and the Douglas Neilson Collection” showed 100 photographs from the private collection of Douglas Neilson, a choreographer and dance professor at the University of Arizona. The exhibit included work by Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Bruce Nauman, Diane Arbus and John Baldessari among others.
What’s Nearby: Other museums on the campus of the University of Arizona include the Museum of Art, the Arizona State Museum and the Mineral Museum. The Center for Creative Photography hosts traveling exhibits at the Phoenix Art Museum.
1030 N. Olive Rd., Tucson, AZ 85721, website, Phone: 520-621-7968