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Isolation: A Photo Essay

Before the advent of digital cameras, photography required artists to spend time in a dark room developing their photographs. These hours dedicated to perfecting their craft left much time for introspection. Moreover, with the introduction of the 35 mm film cameras in the early twentieth century, photographers could take cameras to new, isolated locations without the fear of lugging expensive equipment with them. This photo essay explores eight works in the Perry Collection that convey this sense of isolation. 

Portrait of a young man looking at a mirror

Portrait of a Young Man in an Abandoned Room (1967)
gelatin silver print
Danny Lyon

girl in narrow alley, standing looking downward

Barbara, Switzerland (in narrow alley, standing looking downward) (ca. 1957)
dye transfer print
Harry Callahan

Girl leaning by the column

The Market, Port-au-Prince (1983-1986)
gelatin silver print
Danny Lyon

Empty street with cars

The East side of Washington Street Between Reade and Chambers Streets (1966-67)
gelatin silver print
Danny Lyon

Empty neighborhood

Rejstejn, Czech republic (1994)
gelatin silver print
Michael A. Smith

Snowed-in City Street at Night (1939)
gelatin silver print
William Witt

Imprint of a horse on a hill

Uffington Horse, Oxfordshire, England (1985)
gelatin silver print (selenium-toned)
Marilyn Bridges

Man in sombrero looking at a volcano

El Parícutin, Michoacán, Mexico (ca. 1925)
photographic print (monochrome)
Hugo Brehme

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Isolation does not require the physical isolation that Marilyn Bridges achieves through her photographs from an airplane, but can also have a very physical presence. Some of the photographs depicted here require at least two people, photographer and subject, but a sense of loneliness permeates the scene.



--Katie O’Hara, University Art Collection Curatorial Intern and Graduate Student in Art and Museum Studies (Fall 2018)