New photos, video on display at Norton


In the last two years, Tim Wride, the Norton’s Curator of Photography, has added more than 500 photographs to the permanent collection, which now totals upwards of 3,800 works. The museum is showcasing 53 of those recent additions in an exhibit entitled “New Work/New Directions: Recent Acquisitions of Photography,” on view through Jan. 12.

There’s no theme, but there are some great shots that clearly indicate the rising caliber of the museum’s collection.

Pride of place is a matter of taste. If you’re an antiquarian, your heart will beat faster at the sight of a couple of original Eadward Muybridge collototypes from the late 19th century. If you have a scientific bent, you’ll be fascinated by Wilson Bentley’s 1905 microphotographs of actual snowflakes.

If you’re a classicist, you’ll be bewitched by the perfection of Edward Weston’s “Shell and Rock Arrangement,” a silver gelatin print made by Weston himself as a gift for his daughter-in-law in 1947, the year before Parkinson’s disease made it impossible for him to print his own pictures.

It’s an arranged image — a seashell set in the foreground amongst dark, apparently volcanic rocks. It would be a difficult image to print — the blacks are very black, and they’re directly juxtaposed against the pale shell. The difference between a vintage print of the shot and a modern print essentially comes down to the high silver content in the photographic paper in use at the time. The result is a sheen that contemporary printing can’t match.

There is also first-rate work from less renowned talents — a great grouping of photos by Pirkle Jones of Haight-Ashbury in 1969-1970, and a hilarious set of mock baseball cards designed and shot by Mike Mandel in 1975 in which famous photographers play the parts of jocks and assume the standard poses of same. Minor White batting — undoubtedly the only time White ever held a baseball bat — Imogen Cunningham throwing a baseball, Ansel Adams decked out in catcher’s gear.

The show concludes with the move into color of the 1980s, and stylized narratives by photographers like Sam Taylor-Wood in the manner of the invariably ominous Gregory Crewdson.

Wride has also curated a tasty little show called “L.A. Stories: Videos from the West Coast.” The best of the videos is undoubtedly Julie Orser’s “Double Bind (Anna Moore),” a series of vignettes that build up narrative tension and a sense of domestic dissension that echoes and often outdoes the film noirs that are the artist’s inspiration.


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