Skip to main content

Spectacle: Photographs from the Collection

June 18–September 7, 2009

Comprising more than 40 photographs from the Museum's collection, this exhibition explores the manner in which photographers from the nineteenth-century through the present day have documented spectacular scenes and events along with the curious spectators who observe them. Images of rapt sightseers taking in natural and man-made wonders, participants in tightly orchestrated civic or religious productions, and impromptu moments of drama or self-display demonstrate the camera's unique ability to capture the immediacy of a spectacle as well as the excitement, raw emotion, and even the boredom sometimes exhibited by its spectators.

View more objects in the exhibition >>

Photographs by Eugène Atget, Robert Frank, Gordon Parks, Diane Arbus, David Graham, and more than 30 others point to the fundamental relationship between a spectacle, its audience, and photography itself. These images reveal that photographers repeatedly seize the opportunity to record the intense yet fleeting sights, acts, and emotions on public display during spectacular events.

Main Building


Julia Dolan • Horace W. Goldsmith Curatorial Fellow in Photography

Check out other exhibitions

View full calendar