When Photography and Printmaking Collide

Post by Jennifer Zarro

Donald Camp
Donald Camp, Woman who Writes, Lorraine Carey from the Dust Shaped Hearts series

When Photography and Printmaking Collide opened last weekend at the Free Library of Philadelphia; it’s on view through June 27. The exhibition was organized in conjunction with an annual fundraising event put on by the Friends of the Print and Picture Department. The show features artists who use prints and photography together to create their imagery.

Allan Edmunds, From the Family Album Series
Allan Edmunds, From the Family Album Series

There are some beautiful works in the exhibition including Andy Warhol’s Jacqueline Kennedy II, 1966 which is printed with a mesmerizing, silvery lavender color. I’m always a sucker for Allen Edmunds’ prints and there are a couple of examples from his Family Album Series in the show. There are also several examples of Donald Camp’s large and powerful portraits printed with casein and earth pigments in a way that lets the colors soak into the paper making the image and the paper one.

The works in the show are by local artists supplemented by examples from the Print and Picture Departments holdings. Other artists in the show include Virgil Marti, Lois Johnson, Teresa Jaynes, Paul Cava and others. The exhibition was co-curated by Karen Lightner and Patricia M. Smith.

Lois Johnson
Lois Johnson, City Hall Silkscreen, 1988


Each year the Friends host this fundraising event in honor of Robert Looney, who was head of the Print and Picture Department for 23 years, and who amassed a large (the collection totals about 750,000 works in all) and important collection of works on paper for the Library. It’s an amazing collection, and free and open to the public; truly an undervalued resource in the city. The Friends’ yearly fundraising event always includes a silent auction and subscription reception, and also a lecture or panel discussion. The silent auction this year was great and unsold items can still be perused and purchased through the website at: Works by Martha Madigan, Lois Johnson, Reinhold Edelschein, Rebecca Hoenig, and others were still available at the time this was written.

The panel discussion

Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, Jacqueline Kennedy II, 1966


The collections of the Print and Picture Department include examples of works on paper from Philadelphia in the Early Republic, when the city was considered the “Athens of America,” and was the artistic and economic center of a new and booming print industry. It was this history that was summoned in the panel discussion that kicked off the event. If Philadelphia was once the artistic and cultural center of the nation, where are we now? And, more importantly, where are we going?

“The State of the Arts in Philadelphia: A Conversation about the Present and Future of the Visual Arts in Philadelphia” was the title of the panel and speakers included Douglass Paschal, Curator of Collections at the Woodmere Museum, Jim Cotter, Arts and Culture Editor at WRTI FM, Ben Olshin, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History at the University of the Arts, and Thora Jacobson, CEO of Philagrafika, who served as moderator of the panel.

panel speakers, Looney event at Free Library, Philadelphia, 2008
Panel speakers, from left, Ben Olshin; Jim Cotter; Thora Jacobson. Not in picture — Douglass Paschall, had to leave early for an opening at the Woodmere

Panelists talked about how to appreciate the Philadelphia art world beyond the realm of economic revenue and tourism, and in a way that makes Philadelphia a model for an artistic community. Ben Olshin talked about how architecture will remain to serve as an example of the greatness of the city (if it’s preserved properly), much like the wonders of ancient Rome remain today despite the everyday struggles of funding, government, and crime. Thora Jacobson’s talk presented examples of the DIY mentality of the current young art scene and noted that despite lack of funding and other support systems, artists are getting the job done themselves – making art communities and exhibition spaces, serving as critics and curators – proving that a DIY spirit can revive a city’s cultural landscape.

opening when photog and print
A view of the opening reception for When Photography and Print Collide show at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Some questions from the audience challenged the optimistic presentations by saying that these DIY spaces and collectives are in many ways exclusive, while another audience member questioned how we can talk about art when the city’s crime rate is abominable. Panelists offered that perhaps a greater inclusion into the everyday cultural life of the city could in fact bring about a stronger sense of community that could counter negative aspects such as crime, litter, etc. There’s a connection between people being engaged and involved in arts and culture and the safety and beauty of the city.

–Independent art historian Jennifer Zarro, earned her PhD from Rutgers last spring. She has written about Emma Amos and Liz Rywelski here on artblog, and about the Mezuzah show for Art Matters.