With the press of a button, a picture is taken. In an instant, now becomes then. In the decades preceding the advent of Polaroids and digital photography, picture-taking was a thrilling and nerve-racking event.
Now is Then opens a world of new insights into both the past, when these images were taken, and into today's new and continually evolving era of snapshot photography. With the old and nostalgic images juxtaposed against the new, we are reminded why snapshots intrigue us—modest as they are, they speak eloquently and truthfully about the littleness and bigness of both photography and our lives.
Now is Then: Snapshots from the Maresca Collection features 150 images from the golden age of snapshot photography, the 1920s through the 1960s, selected from a collection of nearly 600 snapshots assembled by a leading expert on vernacular art, Frank Maresca, who has donated them to the Museum over the past decade. These vintage photographs are being shown along with a sampling of recent digital snapshots sent in by members of the public.
Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to consider snapshots not as simple or inconsequential little pictures, but as complex cultural artifacts. The photographs and related objects on display reflect the charming qualities often associated with snapshots, photographic images play in our personal lives: Why do we need and continue to make snapshots? How do we use them? Why do we value them? And ultimately, what happens to them?
Now is Then: Snapshots from the Maresca Collection has been organized by guest curator Marvin Heiferman, and is accompanied by a catalogue published by Princeton Architectural Press that includes essays by Heiferman, Geoffrey Batchen, and Nancy West, as well as an interview with Frank Maresca.
Banner (detail): Untitled (four women with magazines), 1930-1939, gelatin silver print, Gift of Frank Maresca, 2002
Untitled (dancing couple), 1945–1949, gelatin silver print, Gift of Frank Maresca, 2002