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, featuring case studies by Harvard graduate students, will function 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.
These extraordinary collections came to the Harvard Art Museums through the generosity of Gary Schneider and John Erdman. The acquisition of the Printer’s Proof Collection was also made possible 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.