Presumed Innocence: Photographic Perspectives of Children

DeCordova Exhibits
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On View 2008

Presumed Innocence: Photographic Perspectives of Children features images of children in vintage and contemporary photographs that range in date from the early twentieth century to the present day. These photographic works of art were selected from the private collection of Anthony and Beth Terrana, whose vision relies on direct emotional response to the dramatic and timeless quality of each image, rather than on any attempt at encyclopedic or systematic collecting.

The 113 photographs and single video in Presumed Innocence were made by photographers who characteristically focus on children, and also by those who occasionally photograph children. The international collection is rich in traditional documentary and socially concerned photography, and also includes images created with newer digital technologies that enable the photographer to create partially or wholly fictitious images. The selected images fall loosely into the following thematic and often overlapping categories: the child alone, family relationships, children and animals, the child observed, the child at play, the child at risk, rites of passage, and constructed narratives.

The children in these photographs are sweet and tough, innocent and wise, cherished and victimized, joyous and sorrowful, carefree and desperate. Although all of these pictures have been taken in a particular place at a specific time, they are timeless because they speak to conditions that children experienced universally. The photographs also raise many challenging questions: Can a photograph of a child ever be entirely innocent? What are the aesthetic and personal implications of a parent as photographer? How have images of children changed over time? What’s more important, the artist’s intention or the viewer’s perception? How much do our personal, religious, and political beliefs affect our reading of the photograph?

The featured photographers are: Ansel Adams, Shelby Lee Adams, Catherine Angel, Diane Arbus, Ilse Bing, Julie Blackmon, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Henri Cartier-Bresson , Mike Brodie, Leslee Broersma, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Chan Chao, Michal Chelbin, Clark + Pougnaud (Christophe Clark and Virginie Pougnaud), Mark Cohen, Paul D’Amato , Bruce Davidson , Rineke Dijkstra , Alfred Eisenstaedt, Martin Elkort, Elliot Erwitt , Lalla Essaydi, Larry Fink, Martine Franck, Andrea Frank, Robert Frank, Tierney Gearon, Margi Geerlinks, Gour (Kids with Cameras), Emmet Gowin, Robin Graubard, Anne Hall, David Hilliard, Lewis Hine, Julie Holcombe, Pieter Hugo , Simen Johan, Kenneth Josephson, Anastasia Khoroshilova, William Klein, Ingar Krauss , Heinrich K ü hn, Dorothea Lange, Gillian Laub , Jocelyn Lee, Arthur Leipzig, Leon Levinstein, Helen Levitt , Elmar Ludwig, Loretta Lux, Robert Lyons, Sally Mann, Constantine Manos, Mary Ellen Mark, McDermott and McGough, Laura McPhee, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Andrea Modica, Tina Modotti, Abelardo Morell, Rachelle Mozman, Bob Natkin, Jehad Nga, Nicholas Nixon, Luis Gonz á lez Palma, Polixeni Papapetrou, Martin Parr, Gösta Peterson, Melissa Ann Pinney, Nicholas Prior, Sebastião Salgado, Frederick Sommer , Erika Stone, Angela Strassheim, Helen M. Stummer, Jock Sturges, Antanas Sutkus , Joseph Szabo, Guy Tillim, Katherine Turczan, Doris Ulmann, Brian Ulrich, Roman Vishniac, Alex Webb, Weegee, and Liu Zheng.

The Museum is grateful to Anthony and Beth Terrana for their passion and commitment to collecting, their generosity in lending the photographs, and their enthusiastic support of this exhibition and its catalogue. Emily Havens, the Terrana’s curator, was also an invaluable resource and collaborator on this project. Presumed Innocence would not have been possible without the assistance of Kate Dempsey, Koch Curatorial Fellow and Lisa Sutcliffe, former Koch Curatorial Fellow. Exhibition labels were prepared by Kate Dempsey and Nina Bozicnik, Curatorial Intern. Artist quotes that appear on the labels were either submitted directly by the photographers or found in a variety of published sources.

Presumed Innocence is installed in thematic categories in the third floor Joyce and Edward Linde Galleries, the James and Audrey Foster Galleries, and the Fourth Floor hallway gallery. The one video in the exhibition is installed in the Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Media Space. There will be a special Gallery Talk with the exhibition's curator and the collector; see below for details.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 160-page full-color catalogue. The catalogue includes two essays, one by Director of Curatorial Affairs Rachel Rosenfield Lafo, curator of the exhibition, discussing the range of photographic work in the Terrana collection and how it relates to the history of photography, and the second by Anne Higonnet, Professor of Art History at Barnard College, about the changing concept of childhood in visual imagery. The catalogue also includes full page reproductions of each photograph, brief biographies of the artists, and a checklist for the exhibition. Designed by Wilcox Design and published by DeCordova Museum, the catalogue is 12 x 9 inches in an edition of 2500.