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The Light Inside: Wendy Snyder Macneil, Photographs and Films

January 20 – April 10, 2016
Main Gallery, Ryerson Image Centre
Guest Curator: Don Snyder

This exhibition presents the photographic work and selected films and videos of Wendy Snyder MacNeil (American, b. 1943), whose archive is preserved in the Ryerson Image Centre. Drawn from the archive’s extensive holdings and selected in collaboration with the artist, The Light Inside brings renewed attention to MacNeil’s art and influence, and celebrates the Canadian premiere of her most recent film.

MacNeil studied painting and drawing with American artist Elizabeth Saltonstall, and first encountered photography in the Visual Studies Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education; during this time she also enrolled at MIT to study with noted photographer Minor White. Her first book, Haymarket, was published in 1970, and during the next two decades she explored both documentary and narrative approaches to photographic portraiture, continually pushing the boundaries of the medium and its expressive potential. This experimentalism culminated in her austere and compelling hand-made portraits using platinum-palladium materials on vellum. Turning her attention from photography to film and video toward the end of the 1980s, MacNeil has continued to experiment with image and narrative, working with documentary, dramatic and symbolic approaches as well as with video installation.

An influential educator throughout her career, MacNeil taught at Abbott Academy and Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and later at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), from 1996 to 2007. A number of her students went on to become prominent photographers, including Natalia Almeda, Wendy Ewald, Sally Gall, Justin Kimball, George Lange, Jon Miller and Francesca Woodman.

MacNeil’s photographs have earned fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and are included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other institutions. Her films have been recognized with awards from the American Film Institute and the New England Film and Video Foundation, and have been screened in the United States, as well as in Canada, Australia and throughout Europe.

An accompanying catalogue presents MacNeil’s work in the context of essays by Don Snyder, the artist’s brother and long-time collaborator, as well as art historian Eugenia Parry, photographer George Lange and filmmaker Steve Marx.




Event(s):

Opening Party
Wednesday, January 20
6:00 – 8:00 PM

Film Premiere
When The Ice Goes Out (2016) by Jeremy Leach and Wendy Snyder MacNeil
Thursday, January 21
6:30 PM

Exhibition Tour
Don Snyder
Wednesday, February 3
6:00 PM

Exhibition Tour
Don Snyder
Wednesday, March 23
6:00 PM

The side of a boy's face, he is wearing a jacket
Fig. 1

Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Untitled [Boy at Special School], ca. 1975. From the series Special School for Special Children. Gelatin silver contact print. Wendy Snyder MacNeil Archive, Ryerson Image Centre

A family stands in a forest in front of a tent
Fig. 2

Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Untitled [Young man, old woman and two children standing outside a tent], 1968-69. From the series Irish Tinkers. Gelatin silver print. Wendy Snyder MacNeil Archive, Ryerson Image Centre

Two hands reaching up, one is covered in dirt
Fig. 3

Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Andrew Ruvido and Robyn Wessner, 1981; printed 1982. From the series Hands. Platinum- palladium print on tracing vellum. Wendy Snyder MacNeil Archive, Ryerson Image Centre

A man sits wearing a dirty apron
Fig. 4

Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Tom Roddy's Hands, 1968-70. From the series Haymarket. Gelatin silver print, mounted on masonite. Wendy Snyder MacNeil Archive, Ryerson Image Centre

A woman in a black swimsuit floats on her back with her eyes closed, two other women swimming watch
Fig. 5

Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Stephanie and her Sisters, 1973. From the series Biographies. Gelatin silver print. Wendy Snyder MacNeil Archive, Ryerson Image Centre

A woman in a black skirt examines a portrait of herself
Fig. 6

Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Marie Baratte, 1972. From the series Biographies. Gelatin silver print. Wendy Snyder MacNeil Archive, Ryerson Image Centre

Curator Bio

Don Snyder
Guest Curator

Don Snyder has an extensive background in photographic history, critical studies, and curation. A professor at the Ryerson University School of Image Arts since 1980, he has taught in the York-Ryerson Communication and Culture program, and in Ryerson's graduate programs in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management and Documentary Media, and served as Chair of the School from 2005-2010. Before joining the Ryerson faculty, he was Curator of Photography at the Addison Gallery of American Art from 1970 to 1977, where he originated the museum's photography exhibition program and curated exhibitions on the work of Eugene Richards, Bruce Davidson, Jerry Uelsmann, among others.

Exhibition Catalogue

Fig. 1

Wendy Snyder MacNeil: The Light Inside book cover

Wendy Snyder MacNeil: The Light Inside

Editor: Shannon Anderson
Contributors: George Lange, Steve Marx, Eugenia Parry, Paul Roth, and Don Snyder

This publication and accompanying exhibition brings renewed attention to the art and influence of pioneering American photographer and educator Wendy Snyder MacNeil (b. 1943), whose archive is preserved at the Ryerson Image Centre. MacNeil's austere, compelling images contributed significantly to the North American photography scene during the 1970s and 1980s. Restlessly experimental, she strove to portray complex identity and forge a more direct engagement between subject and viewer by pushing the formal boundaries of portraiture.

Purchase now

Installation Shots

Hallway connecting sections of the gallery
Fig. 1

The Light Inside: Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Photographs and Films (installation view), 2016 © Larissa Issler, Ryerson Image Centre

Black and white photographs on the wall behind two white display cases
Fig. 2

The Light Inside: Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Photographs and Films (installation view), 2016 © Larissa Issler, Ryerson Image Centre

Photo of a woman on the left and a man on the right, with their identification cards underneath
Fig. 3

The Light Inside: Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Photographs and Films (installation view), 2016 © Larissa Issler, Ryerson Image Centre