The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York

On December 31, 1940, the Museum opened Sixty Photographs: A Survey of Camera Esthetics, the inaugural exhibition of MoMA's Department of Photography. The exhibition was organized by Beaumont Newhall, who became MoMA’s first curator of photography, and photographer Ansel Adams, with whom Newhall had worked closely to establish the new department. In the exhibition catalogue, Newhall described the basis for creating this department in terms of technological and social development: advancements in cameras and photographic material had resulted in an unprecedented proliferation of pictures in daily life, and taking pictures had become a “universal hobby.” Newhall argued that “there is danger in this amazing growth. Through the very facility of the medium its quality may have become submerged.” The exhibition—like the collecting practices of the department—was intended to preserve and promote artistic excellence in photography, “not to define but to suggest the possibilities of photographic vision.”

Installation views

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