Analog Culture: Printer’s Proofs from the Schneider/Erdman Photography Lab, 1981–2001

, University Study Gallery, University Research Gallery, University Teaching Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

John Schabel, Night Shot 6, 2001. Gelatin silver print. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Schneider/Erdman Printer's Proof Collection, partial gift, and partial purchase through the Margaret Fisher Fund, 2016.182. © John Schabel.

University Study Gallery, University Research Gallery, University Teaching Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

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.

A publication accompanying the exhibition looks in-depth at the photography lab’s technical, material, and interpersonal intricacies. Part oral history, the book unites original essays with excerpts of interviews and conversations with Schneider as well as with Deborah Bell, James Casebere, Robert Gober, John Schabel, and Lorna Simpson. In addition, through two personal reflections, Schneider recalls what it was like to print works for Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz. Including an engaging glossary specific to the practice of Schneider/Erdman, Inc., this volume will capture the attention of students, scholars, and general analog enthusiasts. A complementary online Special Collection features case studies by Harvard graduate students, and functions as the primary digital repository for the printer’s proof collection and its related materials.

Curated by Jennifer Quick, John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Associate Research Curator in Photography, Division of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museums.

The printer’s proofs came to the Harvard Art Museums through the generosity of Gary Schneider and John Erdman, who have long understood the value of the photographs as a teaching collection. The acquisition was also made possible in part by the Margaret Fisher Fund. Further support for this project was provided by the Widgeon Point Charitable Foundation; the Harvard Art Museums Mellon Publication Funds, including the Carola B. Terwilliger Fund; the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Fund for Photography; the Agnes Gund Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art; the M. Victor Leventritt Fund; and the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.

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Online Resource
Visit the complementary Special Collection on our website, The Schneider/Erdman Printer’s Proof Collection, to read case studies of select prints, find definitions of technical terms used in the galleries, and browse the full scope of the collection as well as the archival and technical materials gifted to the museums by Schneider and Erdman.

Related Installation
A.K. Burns: Survivor’s Remorse (May 19–August 12, 2018) is a newly commissioned installation by American artist A.K. Burns for the museums’ Lightbox Gallery on Level 5; it is in part a response to the life and art of David Wojnarowicz, one of the artists featured in the Analog Culture exhibition.

Related Programming
Information about events related to Analog Culture and A.K. Burns: Survivor’s Remorse, including a conversation with John Schabel and Gary Schneider, a film series, an Art Study Center Seminar, and gallery talks, can be found on our calendar.

Watch a recording of the May 21 opening lecture, Photography as Performance: A Conversation with John Schabel and Gary Schneider, moderated by curator Jennifer Quick.