This exhibition takes an unprecedented look at the productive and dynamic collaboration between photographer and printer, through the lens of the Harvard Art Museums’ Schneider/Erdman Printer’s Proof Collection, a remarkable group of nearly 450 photographs printed over three decades by Gary Schneider of the Manhattan-based studio Schneider/Erdman, Inc. The collection includes works by Richard Avedon, James Casebere, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar, Gilles Peress, and David Wojnarowicz, among many other artists, photojournalists, and fashion photographers who made up New York’s cultural milieu in the 1980s and ’90s. As Schneider and Erdman began to build a collection of photographs, through their practice of retaining a print from each artist with whom they collaborated, they came to realize the educational value of this unique body of work. Comprising approximately 90 printer’s proofs as well as related archival material and artist’s tools, the exhibition highlights the collection’s teaching potential by looking closely at the techniques and methods of darkroom photography. It ties the material history of darkroom photography to the historical narratives that Schneider and Erdman experienced, such as the transformation of New York’s urban landscape, the AIDS crisis and its repercussions in American culture, and September 11, 2001.
The Schneider/Erdman Printer’s Proof Collection was acquired by the Harvard Art Museums in two parts, in 2011 and 2016, as a combined gift and purchase through the support of the Margaret Fisher Fund. In addition, Schneider and Erdman gifted a collection of archival material, including photographs, test prints, glass plate negatives, vintage material, and studio records, in 2017. Altogether, these acquisitions have reinforced the museums’ place as a primary site for the study, research, exhibition, and interpretation of contemporary photography.