Kathryn Poindexter-Akers looks at the wall layout at the California Museum of Photography on March 7, 2023. (UCR/Sandra Baltazar Martínez)
March 13, 2023

California Museum of Photography turns 50

The West Coast’s largest photography museum kicks off its celebration on March 18, with a public reception on April 15

Author: Sandra Baltazar Martínez
March 13, 2023

The California Museum of Photography has been documenting history, art, and community for 50 years.

Its collection of cameras, photographs, and art will be on display at “CMP at 50,” a five-month celebration that kicks off Saturday, March 18, 2023. The anniversary reception is set for April 15, 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public. 

Housed within UCR ARTS and part of the University of California, Riverside, the California Museum of Photography, or CMP, is home to approximately 500,000 objects. It holds the country’s largest collection of stereographic photographs and the largest public collection of cameras on the West Coast. This half century anniversary showcases the work of 68 artists and 135 of their pieces across the first floor galleries of the CMP.

Grace Saunders, exhibition and design assistant, works on wall text for the California Museum of Photography's "CMP at 50" exhibition on March 7, 2023. (UCR/Sandra Baltazar Martínez)

“A central vision of the California Museum of Photography has always been its interest in a holistic understanding of photography, not only as an art form, but as a cultural and technological phenomenon,” said Leigh Gleason, the exhibition curator. “This view has focused the way the museum has built its collection and shaped its curatorial program over the last 50 years. ‘CMP at 50’ celebrates this legacy, and the countless staff, faculty, donors, collectors, members, students, and other supporters who have contributed to the CMP’s success.”

The exhibition layout features three rooms, each designed to guide visitors on a journey that speaks to CMP’s collection growth over the decades. “CMP at 50” is a bilingual exhibition — since 2017 UCR ARTS has presented all labeling and wall text in both English and Spanish. 

CMP’s history is as unique as its collection. Its origins began in 1969 with Riverside surgeon Robert Bingham, a camera enthusiast who in 1973 donated his collection to UCR. Bingham worked with UCR art professor Edward Beardsley to establish the CMP, which initially lived in the basement of UCR’s Tomás Rivera Library.

Their first major project together was in 1973 when Beardsley proposed an exhibition on the history of photography, titled “Revolution in a Box, from 1839.” Beardsley also worked with artist James Turrell, then in graduate school at Claremont Graduate University, to curate an exhibition that included approximately 190 photographs and 185 cameras.

By the late 1970s, the CMP's holdings included many works which remain cornerstones of the collection. Among them are the Keystone-Mast Collection, the largest surviving archive of stereoscopic photographs in the world, and the Friends of Photography collection, featuring works by master photographers Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, A.C. Vroman, and Albert Renger-Patzsch, among others. Other significant early acquisitions included photographs by Walker Evans and Raoul Gradvohl. 

Steve Beswick, museum preparator, frames "Decoration for Hurricane Gloria, 1985" by Kenji Nakahashi, on March 7, 2023 at UCR ARTS. The image will be part of the "CMP at 50" exhibition. (UCR/Sandra Baltazar Martínez)

Gleason said the CMP is still growing its collection, regularly adding cameras and photographs that expand upon and complement its existing collections. Some museum acquisitions over the last five years are a large collection of American field cameras and extensive works by photographers including Bruce Davidson, Joel Meyerowitz, Lewis deSoto, William Mortensen, John Divola, Ansel Adams, and Lisa Bloomfield.

At “CMP at 50,” visitors will view a broad range of photographs, from a roughly 4-inch 1865 hand-colored tintype portrait of a woman in a period frame by an unknown artist, to the most contemporary piece, a roughly 5-foot bright yellow monochrome image created by artist Phil Chang. 

Kathryn Poindexter-Akers, exhibitions manager at UCR ARTS, said the “CMP at 50” team aimed to showcase the breadth and depth of the collection, including international, local, and female photographers. 

In 2023, as CMP positions itself for the future, it will do so with the same untethered spirit it has had for the past 50 years, Gleason said. 

“Never afraid to question the boundaries and limitations of photography, exhibitions have included vehicles, sandcastles, and even Andy Warhol’s iconic white-haired wig, while presenting cutting-edge lens-based imagery,” Gleason said. “This trajectory continues. In 2024, UCR ARTS is planning an exhibition titled ‘Digital Capture: Southern California and the Origin of the Pixel-Based Image World,’ which presents the work of pioneering digital artists who appropriated rapidly evolving digital technologies, and how these explorations continue today.”

CMP will showcase work by these 68 artists:

Berenice Abbott; Ansel Adams; Yolanda Andrade; Lewis Baltz; Thomas Barrow; Mark Berghash; Marie Bovo; Manuel Álvarez Bravo; Laurie Brown; Wynn Bullock; Steven J. Cahill; Jo Ann Callis; Phil Chang; Larry Clark; Will Connell; Linda Connor; Darryl Curran; Bruce Davidson; Wayne E. Davis; Joe Deal; Lewis deSoto; Jona Frank; Travon Free; Anthony Friedkin; Lee Friedlander; Francis Frith; Walker Evans; Anna Gaskell; Flor Garduño; Raoul Gradvohl; Philippe Halsman; Graciela Iturbide; Mike Kelley; Sant Khalsa; André Kertész; Kusakabe Kimbei; Hiromu Kira; Mark Klett & Byron Wolfe; Jacques-Henri Lartigue; Danny Lyon; Mike Mandel; M. Robert Markovich; Eniac Martinez; Douglas McCulloh; Susan Meiselas; Pedro Meyer; Joel Meyerowitz; Barbara Morgan; Kenji Nakahashi; Arnold Newman; Anne Noggle; Kenda North; Rubén Ortiz Torres; Marion Palfi; Sheila Pinkel; Jim Pomeroy; Herb Quick; Man Ray; Christopher Russell; Stephen Shore; Larry Silver; Phel Steinmetz; Penelope Umbrico; Inez van Lamsweerde; Andy Warhol; Gillian Wearing; Edward Weston; Garry Winogrand

California Museum of Photography

Exhibition: March 18-Aug.6, 2023

Spring Reception: Saturday, April 15, 6-9pm

Address: 3824 + 3834 Main Street in Riverside, CA 92501

Hours: Thursday & Friday: Noon – 5pm; Saturday & Sunday: 11am – 5pm

Admission: Free

Website: ucrarts.ucr.edu

Grace Saunders (left), exhibition and design assistant, and Emily Gray, museum preparator, work in one of three exhibition rooms at the California Museum of Photography, on March 7, 2023. (UCR/Sandra Baltazar Martínez) works on wall text for the California Museum of Photography's "CMP at 50" exhibition on March 7, 2023. (UCR/Sandra Baltazar Martínez)

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