MFAH Show Explores Time’s Relationship With Photography and With Time

Shomei Tomatsu, Atomic Bomb Damage: Wristwatch Stopped at 11:02, August 9, 1945, from the series 11:02—Nagasaki, 1961, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Shomei Tomatsu, Atomic Bomb Damage: Wristwatch Stopped at 11:02, August 9, 1945, from the series 11:02—Nagasaki, 1961, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The theme of a new photography exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston came out of a conversation that’s been happening for decades, if not all the way back to when Nicéphore Niépce captured “View from the Window at Le Gras” in 1826.

“When talking about the medium, people and critics discuss these dual aspects that relate to time,” says Allison Pappas, assistant curator of photography at the MFAH. “The photo freezes and kills the subject. There’s specificity, a time that has passed. On the other hand, the image passes the subject’s natural time and gives life. I’ve always been interested in that balance.”

Harold E. Edgerton, Bobby Jones, (Side View), c. 1938, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of the Harold and Esther Edgerton Foundation. © The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation
Harold E. Edgerton, Bobby Jones, (Side View), c. 1938, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of the Harold and Esther Edgerton Foundation. © The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation
Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Infinite Pause, which showcases close to 50 images from the museum’s permanent collection, features work that dates from the 1850s to the 21st century. The heavyweight lineup of photographers includes Eadweard Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marey, Harold Edgerton and Duane Michals.

Pappas explains that the show is broken out into three parts: a careful look of the mechanical aspects of photography, a period and aesthetic choice in which photographers left the shutter open a littler longer, and a conceptual look at the medium where time is the subject. Along with traditional silver gelatin prints, there are non-silver-processed images, such as a daguerreotype and an albumen print.

Detlef Erler, Pina Bausch, 1992, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Pampa Risso-Patrón, The Manfred Heiting Collection. © Detlef Erler
Detlef Erler, Pina Bausch, 1992, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Pampa Risso-Patrón, The Manfred Heiting Collection. © Detlef Erler
Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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One of Pappas’s favorite pieces is a recent MFAH acquisition, a 1946 photograph by Harry Callahan. “It explores the movement of light on film where he drew with the light. It’s so elegant yet simple in a way that I think is really special,” says Pappas.

Infinite Pause opens on Saturday, June 18, and hangs through September 11 at MFAH, 1001 Bissonnet. General museum admission is $7.50 to $15. For more information, call 713-639-7300 or see mfah.org


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