September 10, 2011–February 19, 2012
Second floor

Work, as it relates to labor and craftsmanship, has remained a core theme for photographers from the medium’s earliest days. Whether it be the gold miner showing off his achievements or the mine owner proving to distant investors the work that has been done, photographs have long provided much valued evidence of progress and success. Just as society takes stock of people by their profession, portraits of people at work deliver keepsakes of community. Sometimes work portraits provide evidence of more troubled times—of strikes and heart-wrenching tales of poverty and child labor. At other times they bring recognition to people and professions that tend to get ignored.

This survey, drawn from the Museum’s exceptional photograph collection, explores photography’s long-standing record of work across time and place. It recognizes the tight interplay between portraiture and broader documentation of activity and place, while also looking at how photography has extended documentation of labor to a wide range of people, reminding us of our shared humanity.

Installation Photos

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