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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 a photobook collection and the archive of American photographer Nancy Rexroth, housed in the Mary R. Schiff Library & Archives.

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 American nineteenth-century, mid-twentieth century, and 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. 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 reflecting the achievements of the American photographer known for the groundbreaking photobook, IOWA.

The photography department regularly produces original research leading to exhibitions, publications, and commissions, including projects on James Welling, Walker Evans, American color photography, the Lexington Camera Club, Gillian Wearing, and Sohrab Hura.

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Featured Objects

Alexander S. Thomas

James Presley Ball, 1984.297

Woodland Vines

Nancy Ford Cones, 1982.195

Untitled (Antique Milling Machine)

Aaron Siskind, 1997.128

Among the Sparrows

Raghu Rai, 2018.107

HeVi, Oslo

Zanele Muholi, 2017.71

Wearing, Gillian

Gillian Wearing, 2019.269

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 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 Levee: A Photographer in the American South (2020), which was the first major study of Indian photographer Sohrab Hura, 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.