Now at the Getty: At the Window: The Photographer’s View

Sep 30, 2013 11:20PM

In many respects, the window was where photography began. As early as 1826, the sill of an upstairs window in the home of the  French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce served as a platform for his photographic experiments. His View from the Window at Le Gras is today considered to be the first photograph. Since then, the window motif in photographs has functioned formally as a framing device and conceptually as a tool for artistic expression. It is also tied metaphorically to the camera itself which is, at its most rudimentary, a “room” (the word camera means “chamber”) and its lens a “window” through which images are projected  and fixed.

“The window has been a recurrent and powerful theme for photographers from the beginning of the medium,” explains Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “In a collection such as the Getty’s that is particularly rich in work by important photographers from the beginnings of the medium to the present day, the motif provides a unique way to travel through the history of  photography.”

The photographs in At the Window: The Photographer’s View, on view October 1, 2013–January 5, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, explore varying aspects of the window as frame or mirror—formally or metaphorically—for photographic vision.

Image: Sebastião Salgado, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, negative 1995; print 2009. © Sebastião Salgado, Courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles