AS THE TIDES of popularity continue to rise for photography, it is more than fitting that the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is presenting two exhibitions of photographs gathered from its permanent collection. The exhibitions - "A Personal View: Selections from the Dr. James E. and Debra Pearl Photography Collection" and "Selections from `Women are Beautiful,' Photographs by Garry Winogrand" - represent the rich and diverse works within the museum's collection and will be on view in the Val A. Browning gallery through Jan 5.
"A Personal View" spans over 100 years of photography and includes such artists as Harry Callahan, William Henry Jackson, Helen Leavitt and Phillippe Halsman. From the early, mammoth-plate photographs of Eadweard Muybridge to W. Eugene Smith's work for "Life" magazine's "Country Doctor," to the surreal composite imagery of Jerry Uelsman, the exhibition of the Pearl's collection represents a wide variety of subject and message."I bought my first photograph - a Phillippe Halsman - in 1968 or '69," says Pearl in an interview with Henry Barendse, director of the Art Gallery at Weber State University and coordinator of photography selection for the exhibition. "It was a picture of Albert Einstein with his pen clipped to his sweatshirt, a photograph that was subsequently used as the image on a stamp."
Pearl maintains photography has been held back as a collectible art form because photographs are ubiquitous. "It's hard for most people to make the distinction between an outstanding photograph and any old photograph" because everyone has a camera and everyone takes pictures. "I guess it's like the difference between a fake diamond and a real one."
The Pearls gave the collection of works to the museum in hopes that audiences would be able to broaden their understanding, their study and their enjoyment of photography as an art form.
In Winogrand's "Women are Beautiful" the museum has an important collection, not only because of Winogrand's stature as an American photographer, but because the works capture and communicate so much about our society and ourselves.
The collection of 58 photographs was taken mostly during the '60s and published as a book in 1975.
Winogrand's appreciation of women was enthusiastic and undemanding. He naively assumed that the rest of the world, at least the rest of the male world, would be eager to buy a book of photographs of anonymous, fully dressed women walking down the street.
The book was a commercial failure, but the photographs, as viewers will see in this exhibit, are not.
John Szarkowski, retired director of the Department of Photography for the MoMA said of Winogrand in a recent edition of "Artnews": "It was his insistence that there was no particular way that a photograph should look. The goal was to get it right, to get the most interesting stuff you possibly could."
Both exhibitions are sponsored by the museum's Special Exhibitions Council and represent a continuation of the museum's decision to focus on presenting exhibitions drawn exclusively from the permanent collection over the next few years in order to showcase and highlight portions of its holdings which have rarely, if ever, been exhibited.