U.Va. Art Museum Exhibit 'The Social Lens' Focuses on Photographs That Can Change Perceptions and Values

January 03, 2006

New Docent Training
U.Va. Art Museum
Wednesday, Jan. 18, 6 p.m.

January 3, 2006 — Ray Graham III has been making, looking at and buying photographs since 1969 when he purchased John Lloyd’s evocative study of Georgia O’Keeffe’s hands. His collection now numbers more than 200 photographs from a number of artists and photographers.

Yet when Graham talks about the power of photographs, he usually references documentary or social-commentary photography — images that provide a sense of place, of social situations and of events that can change the viewer’s perceptions and values, according to exhibition curator Kathleen Stewart Howe. Graham, his wife, Barbara, and son, Greg, have long-standing ties to Charlottesville and support the visual arts in the community and throughout the country.

“The Social Lens” presents the work of 10 documentary photographers from Graham’s collection, including John Gossage and Sarah Penman, who capture the intricacies of life in such far-flung places as Native American reservations and the sidewalk in front of the White House. Each of these artists has, for one reason or another, struck a cord for the collector, and as a result he has nurtured them and allowed them the ability to work unencumbered. Also featured in the exhibition are works by Shelby Lee Adams, Rob Amberg, Douglas Kent Hall, Betty Hahn, John Lloyd, Patrick Nagatani, Meridel Rubenstein and Anne Noggle.

This exhibition is a particular “take” on the collection of a man who knows photography, and is committed to social issues and to the people who make us stop to look closely and think deeply about someone or something outside our usual realm of experience. It is only a part of Graham’s photography collection, but that part where one can see the collector’s involvement most clearly. It also reveals the heart of the man who built a collection, considered not in terms of acquisitions, but in terms of support and encouragement for the work of photographers, Howe said.

The exhibition is made possible with the support of the University’s Arts program and the Arts Enhancement Fund.

The museum is open to the public, free of charge, Tuesday through Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call (434) 924-3592 or visit the museum Web site http://www.virginia.edu/artmuseum.