“Defined by Light: Photography’s First 75 Years” and its beautifully written and organized catalog were conceived by the donors, Jack and Beverly Wilgus. They have collected photography for 40 years and decided to retire from Baltimore, where they had taught the history of photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art, to Beverly Wilgus’ home state of Texas with all their treasures.
A revolution in seeing: Exhibition captures first 75 years of photography.
“Treasures abound in this vast collection, containing more than 30,000 photographs, pieces of equipment and books that relate to photography. The installation is crammed into a space not really designed for exhibitions. It highlights the need for a more professional and easily accessible gallery for the growing collections of the DeGolyer Library, something akin to the exhibition space at Austin’s Ransom Center.
What is fascinating and important about the collection is that it is defiantly not confined to what’s considered art photography. Indeed, it strains the boundaries of good taste. The collection features morbidly fascinating photographs of corpses, images of invisible spirits purportedly captured on film, sober photos documenting war, and hilarious images of tricksters, magicians and circus performers. Those include a photograph with the best label of the season: “Mrs. G. W. Sittler’s silver print cabinet card representing Flint the Mesmerist and Leslie J. Meacham holding his hypnotized daughter, Marina Flint, Aloft.”
Prepare yourself for the fact that, with the exception of a few delightfully vapid early enlargements of pretty women, almost everything in the exhibition is small, and many of the cases have 40 or even 50 items in them. The only objects that are individually labeled are the 296 ones illustrated in the catalog — perhaps one-fifth of the displayed work.”