Photography scholar leaves legacy at Princeton University

Legendary photography scholar and curator Peter C. Bunnell was curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art from 1966 to 1972, then came to Princeton University as the first David Hunter McAlpin professor of history of the photography and modern art.

The post, established in 1971 by a Princeton alumnus and photography collector McAlpin, was the first endowed faculty post in the field in the United States and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

In addition to his role at Princeton Faculty, from which he retired in 2002, Bunnell spent over 30 years at the Princeton University Art Museum as Curator of Photography, Museum Director (1973-78) and Director interim (1998-2000).

He died on September 20 after a long illness.

“It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of our wonderful friend and colleague Peter Bunnell, one of the most essential figures in the history of photography and the history of our museum”, James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher-David J Haemisegger, class of 1976, principal, said in a prepared statement. “No one did more than Peter to shape the field of photography or our collections at Princeton – but his national and international influence was equally immense. He has taught, mentored and shaped generations of students, academics, conservatives and others, and he was also one of the nicest people you could hope to know.

Born in 1937 in Poughkeepsie, New York, Bunnell met American photographer Minor White while a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where White’s classes fueled his nascent interest in photography, the statement said.

“I took his classes and, as was his habit, he drew a group of students around him outside of the institute,” Bunnell said in earlier reports, according to the statement. “These were informal sessions where he explored more deeply his philosophy and attitudes towards photography.”

Bunnell went on to obtain a Masters of Fine Arts in Photography from Ohio University in 1961 under the tutelage of Clarence H. White Jr., the son of famous American photographer Clarence Hudson White, as well as a Masters of History. of Yale University art in 1965, the statement said.

During his time at the Museum of Modern Art, Bunnell organized several important exhibitions, including the first study of the work of Clarence H. White and the seminal “Photography in sculpture», Which offered new innovative avenues for analyzing and understanding photography.

In 1989 Bunnell organized “Minor White: the eye that shapesWho interpreted White’s photographic achievements in relation to former photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams and Paul Strand and traveled to six other locations, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Modern San Francisco Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Ultimately, the Minor White and Clarence H. White archives arrived in Princeton under Bunnell’s auspices, the statement said.

Princeton’s Minor White Project encourages research and publication of the artist’s work, legacy and influence, in part through an annual scholarship program.

Thanks to Bunnell’s leadership, the Princeton University Art Museum today holds one of the largest repositories of historical photographs in North America, including modern Japanese photography in which Bunnell was a pioneering curator and collector, according to the release. .

Thanks to the generosity of several alumni, the museum’s photography curatorial was named in Bunnell’s honor in 2011.

“Peter was a natural storyteller who brought the history of photography to life,” Katherine A. Bussard, Peter C. Bunnell curator of photography at Princeton University Art Museum, said in the statement. “We are eternally grateful for this gift he shared with so many people.”

Among the many important volumes that Bunnell wrote and edited during his long career include “Minor White: The Eye That Shapes” (1989), which won the George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award from the Art Libraries Society of North America; “A Photographic Vision: Pictorial Photograph, 1889–1923” (1980); “Edward Weston in Photography” (1983); “Aperture Magazine Anthology: The Minor White Years, 1952-1976” (2012); and “Photography at Princeton,” published in 1998 to mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the museum’s photography collection.

His essays and reviews, which have appeared in national and international publications, encompass a wide range of photographic subjects and artists, including Diane Arbus, Ruth Bernhard, Paul Caponigro, Walter Chappell, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Emmet Gowin, Gertrude Käsebier, Michiko Kon, Barbara Morgan, Wright Morris, John Pfahl, Edward Ranney, Aaron Siskind and Alfred Stieglitz.

Bunnell oversaw the exhibition of the work of photographer Harry Callahan for the United States Pavilion at the 38th Venice Biennale in 1978. He was a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation in 1979 and an honorary member of the Royal Photographic Society.

A celebration of Bunnell’s life and career will take place at a later date.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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