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Collecting and Curating Photographs: Between Private and Public Collections

Fig. 1

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alicante (Spain), gelatin silver print, 24.3 x 36.1 cm, 1933, private collection. Photo by Laura Margaret Ramsey © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum/Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson


The symposium is organized by the Ryerson Image Centre, with generous support from:

May 1 – 3, 2014
Organized by Dr. Thierry Gervais
Eaton Lecture Theatre RCC-204
Rogers Communication Centre, 80 Gould Street

Free admission. Seating is provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

Watch Online:

Thursday, May 1
Friday, May 2
Saturday, May 3

The third annual Ryerson Image Centre symposium on photography, this year entitled “Collecting and Curating Photographs: Between Private and Public Collections” aims to analyze how the photograph has become a collectible item and an enduring subject of academic studies since the nineteenth century. Focusing on the selection criteria and the intellectual ambitions that motivate and structure photographic collections, this conference seeks to highlight the dialogue established between private collectors and museum curators. Gabriel Cromer, Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, Georges Sirot, or more recently Pierre Apraxine for the Gilman Paper Co. — to name a few — have assembled large photographic collections that were sold, or partially donated, respectively to the George Eastman House (Rochester, USA), Harry Ransom Center (Austin, USA), the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA). These collections, which were assembled privately, have become major components of public institutions, if not the foundation of their photographic collections. By questioning the role of collectors and curators of photographs, this symposium aims to examine the process of recognition and institutionalisation of the photographic medium. Among the consequences engendered by this process of collecting, preserving and exhibiting, this symposium will analyze how corpuses of photographs have — or have not — become legitimated subjects of academic research and how photographic collections have encouraged museums to consider cultural products along with artistic outputs.

The conference will take place over two and a half days and will be divided into four sections to highlight thematic similarities and shared concerns. The panel “Building Public Photographic Collections” gathers curators of major public institutions to discuss the foundation and role of their photographic collections. The panel “Collecting Photographs” brings together collectors to discuss their ambitions related to the collecting process. A third panel, “Photographic Collections in Perspective,” gives historians of photography an opportunity to analyze the role of public and private photographic collections in academic research. The fourth and last panel, “Passeurs of Photographs” brings together dealers and photography experts who guide collectors and curators in their acquisitions.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Welcome & Keynote Address

6:00 p.m. – Welcome Address
Dr. Mohamed Lachemi, Provost and Vice President Academic, Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada)

6:10 p.m. – Research Activities at the Ryerson Image Centre
Paul Roth, Director, Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto, Canada)

6:20 p.m. – Symposium Introduction
Dr. Thierry Gervais, Assistant Professor, School of Image Arts, Ryerson University; and Head of Research, Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto, Canada)

6:30 p.m. – Opening Keynote Address, Find and Seek: Museum Collecting Strategies
Quentin Bajac, The Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator, Department of Photography, Museum of Modern Art (New York, USA)

Friday, May 2, 2014

9:00 a.m. – Doors open

9:25 a.m. – Panel Introduction, Building Public Photographic Collections
Dr. Gaëlle Morel. Exhibitions Curator, Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto, Canada)

9:30 a.m. – Collecting after Collectors: The Gernsheim Legacy at the Harry Ransom Center
Dr. Jessica S. McDonald, Chief Curator, Department of Photography, Harry Ransom Center (Austin, USA)

10:20 a.m.The Shifting Identity of a Collection
Peter Higdon, Collections Curator, Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto, Canada)

11:10 a.m. – Coffee break

11:40 a.m.Present and Absent: What We Don't Collect
Philip Brookman, Chief Curator and Head of Research, Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington DC, USA)

12:30 p.m. – Lunch break

2:00 p.m. – Panel Introduction, Collecting Photographs
David Harris. Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management, Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada)

2:05 p.m.The Raven’s Story: 45 Years of Collecting Photographs
Wm. B. Becker, collector (Detroit, USA)

2:45 p.m.How I Became a Collector
Gregory V. Gooding, collector (New York, USA)

3:25 p.m.A Shared Vision: The Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Collection
Fred Bidwell, collector (Cleveland, USA)

4:05 p.m. – Break

4:25 p.m. – Panel Discussion – Toronto Collectors in Conversation
Steven Evans, Harry and Ann Malcolmson, and Dr. Kenneth Montague

Saturday, May 3, 2014

9:00 a.m. – Doors open

9:25 a.m. – Panel Introduction, Photographic Collections in Perspective
Dr. Thierry Gervais, Assistant Professor, School of Image Arts, Ryerson University and Head of Research, Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto, Canada)

9:30 a.m.The Album, the Art Market, and the Archives
Dr. Joan M. Schwartz, Associate Professor and Queen’s National Scholar, Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada)

10:20 a.m.When the Carousel stops turning … what shall we say about the slide show?
Dr. Martha Langford, Professor, Concordia University (Montreal, Canada)

11:10 a.m. – Coffee break

11:40 a.m.The ‘Snapshot’ and the ‘Art Museum:’ Collectors, Institutions, and the Myth of the Common Man
Dr. Anne McCauley, David H. McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art, Princeton University (Princeton, USA)

12:30 p.m.
– Lunch break

2:00 p.m. – Panel Introduction. Passeurs of Photographs
Paul Roth, Director, Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto, Canada)

2:05 p.m.The Hallmark Photographic Collection: A History of Creative Patronage
Keith F. Davis, Senior Curator, Photography, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, USA)

2:55 p.m.Passeurs and Sites of Passage: Curating in the Expanded Field
Dr. Kevin Moore, Curator (New York, USA)

3:45 p.m. – Break

4:15 p.m. The Evolution of a Very Personal Collection
Howard Greenberg, Director, Howard Greenberg Gallery (New York City, USA)