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Maria Morris Hambourg is the founding curator of the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her career began at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where she worked closely with John Szarkowski in the Department of Prints and Photographs. She has curated such exhibitions as Thomas Struth: 1977–2002; Richard Avedon: Portraits; Walker Evans; The Waking Dream: Photography’s First Century; and Carleton Watkins, the Art of Perception.

Maria Morris Hambourg’s first book as Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New Vision: Photography Between the World Wars (Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, 1989)

Steven B. Smith and Maria Morris Hambourg in conversation

“When I opened Steve’s portfolio, I saw a few pictures of landscape with housing growing over it like a wave. I said this is interesting, I’ve seen something like this. But the more I looked, the deeper the meaning he was creating became. He clearly had excavated something in such a complete way. I was stopped in my tracks. . . . You can put on exhibition after exhibition and the effect is ultimately fleeting. There’s no permanence to an exhibition. You may have a couple of installation shots or maybe somebody walks through with a video camera. But the book is permanent; at least it’s as permanent as the monuments we make these days in our lives. The history, the usable tradition, is made from photographers like Steve sitting down with books. And that is how the tradition is passed on. . . .”

A full transcript of the interview


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