Wadsworth Atheneum

THE THRILL OF THE CHASE: THE WAGSTAFF COLLECTION OF PHOTOGRAPHS AT THE J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM

"Photographs are only interesting if they do something to you. Some images hit you quickly and lose their power...Other images allow you to linger, allow you to return again and again to a special mind-place that is sexy in the best sense of the word - emotional, intellectual, and sensual." Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr.

With more than twenty-six thousand works, the Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. collection of photographs is the largest single group of artworks in any medium at the Getty Museum. Wagstaff amassed his extraordinary collection over the course of a decade, between 1973 and early 1984. He recognized at the outset that photography was an undervalued art form and that he might have a profound impact on the medium by collecting it.

Wagstaff was mainly attracted to photographs that had the power to stimulate his imagination. In a 1975 talk he declared that his "major interest in the field has been the question of quality." His taste ran toward the idiosyncratic - images that surprised him chiefly because he had never seen them before. This sensibility became increasingly pronounced as his collection expanded.

In choosing the 147 works reproduced in this book, curator Paul Martineau first selected the masterpieces and then added images from early photographic history as well as those from obscure sources: daguerreotypes, cartes-de-visite, and stereographs, plus mug shots, medical photographs, and works by unknown makers. The latter category contains some of the most outstanding objects in the collection, demonstrating that Wagstaff had an exceptional eye along with the courage to position unfamiliar images alongside works by established masters of the medium.

Details: By Paul Martineau
published 2016, 244 pages, hardcover

 

 

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