A Brief History of Looking at Ourselves
This exhibition of portraiture celebrated photography as an expression of identity, place, and sense of belonging. Reflections encompassed nearly the entire era of photography, from the earliest 1840s’ daguerreotypes to modern day digital photographs and Instagram “selfies.”
The History of Photography
Reflections opened in 2019, the 180th anniversary of the invention of photography, and the exhibition celebrated this milestone by focusing on one of humankind’s favorite subjects—ourselves. Drawing from the Maryland Center for History and Culture’s vast photographic holdings, including daguerreotypes, salt prints, glass negatives, acetate negatives, and digital prints, Reflections examined the way portraiture had progressed over the years and the way self-representation had evolved. While technology changed, some of the ways we express ourselves in images stayed the same.
Looking at Ourselves
The exhibition’s curators were Joe Tropea, MCHC Curator of Films and Photographs, and Elena Volkova, Assistant Professor of Photography at Stevenson University. In addition to focusing on the themes of identity, place, and belonging, Reflections explored sub-themes that included family portraits, sports, work life, childhood, sexuality, and transportation. The exhibition highlighted work from unsung and, in some cases, unidentified photographers represented in the MCHC photo and print collections.
Reflections invited visitors to take and submit their own portraits to the show using a “selfie” wall. They were also encouraged to take a portrait anywhere and tag the @ReflectionsMdHS Instagram account to have photos pulled into the exhibition’s digital component.