“Viewpoints” brings together some of the most enduring and powerful photographs of the 20th century, investigating photography’s transformative power and its role in contributing to collective memories. The exhibition celebrates photography both as an art form and as a social, cultural, and political force. Presenting 150 highlights from the Howard Greenberg Collection of Photographs—a group of 446 images recently acquired by the MFA—the exhibition showcases the collection’s breadth.
A passionate and discerning figure in the field, Howard Greenberg is a former photographer, a gallery dealer, a strong advocate for artists, and, above all, a connoisseur who spent decades putting together this collection of significant 20th-century prints by many of the era’s most notable photographers. Works range from European modernist masterpieces from the 1920s and ’30s to socially conscious works such as powerful visual testimonies of Depression-era America, politically engaged street photography, wartime photojournalism, and compelling depictions of African American life from the 1930s through the Civil Rights movement. Beginning with a selection of Greenberg’s particular favorites, photographs in “Viewpoints” are divided into seven themes: Capturing Modernism; Picturing the City; Conflicts and Crises; Bearing Witness; Fleeting Moments; Defining Portraits; and Music, Fashion, and Celebrity.
“Viewpoints” highlights the material properties of these exceptional prints, many the earliest or first ever or only print made of an image, or the best existing example, presenting an unparalleled opportunity for close looking at this exceptional collection.
Among the many photographers represented are Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Consuelo Kanaga, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Edward Steichen, and Weegee. Together, the works on view demonstrate the emotive power of the camera and the photographic print.