Time and Face: Daguerreotypes to Digital Prints exhibition is drawn exclusively from the Collection of Art Properties at Columbia University and includes photographs produced using most photomechanical processes. Arranged in four thematic sections—time and technology, face, innocence, and fame—the exhibition presents formal portraits alongside figurative subjects in photojournalism and documentary photography, with over 100 examples of works dating from the origins of photography in the 1840s to today. 

Time and Face: Daguerreotypes to Digital Prints is curated by Roberto C. Ferrari, the Curator of Art Properties at Columbia University’s Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. Ferrari notes: “Columbia was one of the first institutions to collect photographs for research and study, and we continue to this day to build on that legacy. We regularly receive gifts of art from alumni and other donors, and we seek to proactively collect work that emphasizes diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in support of our educational mission. This exhibition will be the first large-scale effort to showcase a selection of photography from this remarkable, yet unknown, collection.” 

Works on view will include photographic portraits ranging from nineteenth-century daguerreotypes and other cased works, to early paper-based works such as albumen print cartes de visite, to twentieth-century gelatin silver prints and chrome prints, to contemporary archival pigment prints. Among the highlights are Martin M. Lawrence’s mammoth-plate daguerreotype of New York City newspaper publisher and politician James Watson Webb, which won an award at the Great Exhibition of 1851; a recently-conserved woodburytype print of the Fisk Jubilee Singers from the mid-1880s; vintage studio portraits by the Arkansas-based photographer Mike Disfarmer; and contemporary work such as John Pinderhughes’s portrait of Mrs. Irene Johnson from his Harlem Portraits series.  The exhibition also includes photographs by twentieth-century artists Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Helen Levitt, Arthur Rothstein, and Andy Warhol, and by contemporary artists Tina Barney, Larry Fink, Danny Lyon, and Shirin Neshat, among others. 

Time and Face: Daguerreotypes to Digital Prints coincides with the presentation of What is the Use of Buddhist Art? and Object Relations: Indigenous Belongings. Collectively these exhibitions present more than 150 works of art and cultural heritage objects from Columbia’s Collection of Art Properties. Most on view to the public for the first time, they are a fraction of more than 13,000 objects in the holdings of the collection housed at the Avery Architectural & Fine Art Library. This wide-ranging collection, built over two centuries, has been acquired principally through donations from alumni and faculty, and includes antiquities, cultural heritage objects, and numerous examples of works of art through the twenty-first century. The mission of the collection is to support educational programs, curricular integration, research, and study.

Time and Face: Daguerreotypes to Digital Prints is supported by Robert Shlaer and M. Susan Barger.

The Wallach Art Gallery's exhibition programs are made possible with support from the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Endowment Fund, the Charina Endowment Fund, and the gallery's patrons. The Gallery extends special thanks to Jeffrey Hoffeld and an anonymous donor.

Roberto Ferrari extends thanks to all of the following for their research and exhibition assistance, encouragement, and active participation in making this project possible: the Art Properties team (Eric J. Reisenger and Lillian Vargas) and colleagues in Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library (Hannah Bennett, Katherine Prater, Dwight Primiano, and Margaret Smithglass); colleagues in Columbia University Libraries, particularly University Archives and Conservation; the entire Wallach Art Gallery team for bringing it all together; Dr. Frédérique Baumgartner and students in the MA in Art History program (Alison Braybrooks, Andie Fialkoff, Sophia Gebara, Abbe Klein, Colton Klein, and Emily Wehby), as well as Ashley Williams, PhD student and Art Properties graduate student assistant; our conservators, mountmakers, and framers (Paul Himmelstein, Alec Madoff, Peter Mustardo/The Better Image, Batyah Shtrum/SBE Conservation, and City Frame); and to all the donors of the works of art and cultural heritage objects from the collection on view in these three exhibitions.

Photographer unknown, The Fisk Jubilee Singers, 1882-1885. Collection of Art Properties, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Past Exhibition

Curated By

Roberto C. Ferrari, Curator of Art Properties, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University


People and Props in Photography, 1840s-1940s takes a close look at seven photographs from Time and Face: Daguerreotypes to Digital Prints that reflect various technical processes utilized during the first century of the medium history. 

This online presentation is the fifth in the “MA in Art History Presents” series, which offer MA candidates an opportunity to curate an exhibition—in this case in an online format—based on the Columbia University art collection.

Next Exhibition
January 20 - March 12, 2022