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About the Photography Collection

The Cincinnati Art Museum photography collection spans the history of the medium, from early daguerreotypes and salt paper prints to photographs by contemporary artists working on several continents now. The photography department also stewards an open-access photobook collection and the archive of American photographer Nancy Rexroth.

The museum collected its first photographs in 1899; photography was recognized as a collecting focus in 1974 and established as an independent department in 2008. Building on strengths in nineteenth and twentieth-century American photography and in contemporary practices, today’s photography department is focused on adding new perspectives to the stories the collection can tell, and on making distinctive contributions to photography history and curatorial practice. The collection features a growing representation of works by artists of color, by female-identified and LGBTQ+ artists, and of the practice of photography in South Asia—especially India. In 2019, the museum announced the formation of The Nancy Rexroth Collection, an unparalleled resource for study and appreciation of the American photographer known for her groundbreaking photobook, Iowa.

The photography department regularly produces original research leading to exhibitions, publications, and commissions, including past projects on Walker Evans, American color photography, the Lexington Camera Club, James Welling, Doug and Mike Starn, and Jochen Lempert, as well as recent collaborations with Gillian Wearing, Sohrab Hura, John Edmonds, and David Hartt.

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Featured Objects

A framed photo of a person in a suit Alexander S. Thomas

James Presley Ball, 1984.297

Three nude boys play in the sand The Partridge Boys, Morro Bay

Imogen Cunningham, 2009.250


About the Curator

Dr. Nathaniel M. Stein, Curator of Photography, joined the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2017. Stein holds degrees in art history from Wesleyan University and Brown University, where his doctoral research focused on the history of photography in India. Recent projects in Cincinnati include exhibitions with David Hartt and John Edmonds, Sohrab Hura, Gillian Wearing, Hank Willis Thomas, and the Kamoinge Workshop, as well as the formation of The Nancy Rexroth Collection. Stein is the author of The Natural World (2022), The Levee: A Photographer in the American South (2020), and Interference: Andre Bradley and Paul Anthony Smith (2017), among other publications. Prior to arriving in Cincinnati, Stein held curatorial positions at institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the RISD Museum. He has taught the history of photography, film, and modern and contemporary art at the Rhode Island School of Design, Arcadia University, and Brown University, and held fellowships and lectured at research centers and museums in Europe and the United States.