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American Moments

Photographs from The Phillips Collection


$12 for adults; $10 for students as well as visitors 62 and over; free for members and visitors 18 and under. 

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Photography at the Phillips

Although a passionate collector of painting, by the 1920s Duncan Phillips became increasingly interested in the creative possibilities of photography. For Phillips, Alfred Stieglitz revolutionized photography with his artist’s sensibility and perception. After meeting Stieglitz in 1926, Phillips remarked, “As yet the photograph has been perfected by only one or two men, notably Stieglitz, so that the mechanical process truly serves the artist as an instrument sensitive enough for his personal expression.” Nearly 10 years later, Phillips wrote, “Stieglitz has made the technique of photography not merely self-controlled but sensitive and intensely emotional.” It was through this appreciation that Phillips considered photography within the context of modern art.

Duncan Phillips was also captivated by the romantic sensibility of Clarence John Laughlin, known for his Surrealist images of the American South. Phillips encountered Laughlin’s photography in the 1930s, gave the artist an exhibition in 1943, and acquired 27 of his works between 1945 and 1956. They were the first photographs to enter the collection. In 1949, Georgia O’Keeffe gave Phillips a gift of 19 photographs from her late husband Alfred Stieglitz’s cloud series—called Equivalents—which Phillips exhibited that year with Laughlin’s work. In 1949, Phillips also organized an exhibition of portraits by Arnold Newman, and in 1964 both exhibited and acquired several works by his friend the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The Phillips’s photography collection has continued to develop and is now the museum’s fastest growing area of acquisition. Approximately 1,000 examples comprise the collection—black-and-white and color photographs—94 percent of which have been gifts to the Phillips. Works by American photographers make up 84 percent of this total collection, and more than 50 percent of those images have been gifted in the last five years. American Moments presents an unparalleled opportunity to exhibit a selection of these iconic images of American life while highlighting the breadth and depth of this important collection.

Exhibition Support

The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection.

The exhibition is presented by 

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Generous support is provided by the Share Fund.

Additional in-kind support provided by 

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Photo Contest

Congratulations to American Momements Photo Contest grand prize winner Bella Kirchner and honorable mention recipients Chuck Fletcher, Andrew Nathan Morgan, Ann McCormick Saybolt, Lou Havlicek, and Jere Kittle.

View the winning submission

View the honorable mention recipients

American Moments Photo Contest presented in conjunction with
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