(And how Newhall nearly reeled me into the UNM Grad Program in 1978)
Beaumont Newhall was a Curator and Acquisitor for the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and on this date (March 17th, 1937) 74 years ago, the exhibition "Photography 1839-1937" opened. Saying that he was a scholar in the History of Photography is an obvious understatement, since he was instrumental in helping to start this field of study in the early 2oth century.
In 1937, Photography was just gaining credibility as an art form that could stand on its own, separate from other mediums. Newhall worked closely with his wife Nancy. Newhall went on to be the Director of the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film.
In 1971 Newhall left the George Eastman House and joined the faculty at the University of New Mexico where he became a Professor of Art History. In 1984, Newhall became a MacArthur Fellow, with one of the first Genius Awards to go to a Photo Historian.
My own humble connection to Newhall came in 1978, when I was corresponding with him regarding their Photography MFA program. I still have two typewritten letters from him regarding the program, but I did not apply for a number of years. Life intervened. However, my yearning to attend the UNM Photography program finally became a reality in the late 1990's, when I stormed through their awesome program.
Of course, Newhall passed on in 1993 and became Professor Emeritus after he received his MacArthur Fellowship, and I always wondered how it would have been to study with the person who got me thinking about a graduate degree in photography all those years ago.
Here is to you Beaumont, I was thinking fondly of you today, especially as a scholar and Professor of Photography myself.
Story Copyright Larry McNeil, 2011, All Rights Reserved.