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“Untitled (people in wheat)”, 1904; American; gelatin silver print; sheet: 5 7/16 × 3 3/8 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of John R. and Teenuh M. Foster 322:2018

ST. LOUIS, March 11, 2019—The Saint Louis Art Museum will present “Poetics of the Everyday: Amateur Photography, 1890-1970,” the museum’s first exhibition of vernacular photographs. It opens April 26 in Galleries 234 and 235.

Exemplified by the ubiquitous family snapshot, vernacular photography includes images made by people who were generally self-taught, and whose identities often have been lost to time. The selection of work in “Poetics of the Everyday” focuses on first half of the 20th century, when portable cameras became affordable and available to millions of enthusiastic new photographers.

(To download web-sized images, right click on the images below.)

“Poetics of the Everyday” celebrates the recent gift of 150 amateur photographs from St. Louis collectors John and Teenuh Foster. Works in the collection embrace lightheartedness in everyday life, and capture the character of often-overlooked moments. The 110 prints included in the exhibition include a range of subjects and compositions: children playfully acting out in front of the camera; scenes taken from automobiles on road trips; candid portraits revealing friends and family; and early attempts at “selfies,” such as those made in photo booths. In some of the prints, photographic effects are in play, such as double exposure or blurring. These effects often unintentionally imbue images with surreal qualities or jar viewers out of conventional ways of seeing the world.

“We are deeply grateful to John and Teenuh Foster, whose generous gift will help the Saint Louis Art Museum tell a larger story about the history of photography,” said Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. “These photographs point to new areas of collecting and study—in particular the modes of expression found in folk, self-taught, and outsider art.”

While diminutive in scale, the photographic prints included in the exhibition are rich in detail and many are complex in composition, immersing the viewer in their small worlds. At times, they open doors to the private spaces of domestic life with an intimacy that many fine art photographers could not access.

“Poetics of the Everyday” is curated by Eric Lutz, associate curator of prints, drawings and photographs. The exhibition is accompanied by a 108-page catalogue edited by Lutz.

The exhibition will be on view through August 25.

CONTACT: Matthew Hathaway, 314.655.5493, matthew.hathaway@slam.org

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