Anonymous snapshot photographs

Anonymous snapshot photographs
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

Anonymous snapshot photographs, Gift of Peter J. Cohen, 2019.227,2019.355, 2019.248

The Davis recently acquired a generous gift of over 900 vernacular photographs from the collection of Peter J. Cohen. This substantial collection of snapshots significantly expands the scope of the Davis' collection of vernacular photography, which already included mugshots, stereographs, early travel photography, and scientific studies of movement by Eadweard Muybridge. Cohen began collecting vernacular photographs from thrift stores and flea markets twenty-five years ago. In recent years, he has donated portions of the collection (approximately 20,000 found, anonymous photographs) to museums around the country.  The curators at the Davis and faculty from the Art Department collaborated to select the snapshots, rare Kodak 1s and 2s, photo albums, and album pages in this gift. The selection spans the twentieth century and represents a variety of themes collected by Cohen, such as "camera in frame," "monuments/statues," "fires," "shadow of photographer," "the ends," and "cross-dressing." The majority of the photos come from North America, but a small selection of snapshots from Asia was also acquired. The albums represent a range of approaches to the collection and display of personal photographs, including some creative examples of collage that employ the juxtaposition of text and image to create meaning or document memories. Such objects illustrate how these snapshots were originally cared for, circulated, and viewed. Highlights from this gift will be on view in the exhibition Going Viral: Photography, Performance and the Everyday (February 7-June 7, 2020).