Photography has been a central artistic practice in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 150 years. Countless photographers—from Eadweard Muybridge and Carleton Watkins in the nineteenth century to contemporary practitioners such as Katy Grannan, Richard Misrach, and Henry Wessel—have been drawn to this region and made it their home. Ambitious and innovative, many early California photographers were responsible for cultivating groundbreaking educational programs—a legacy that began with the founding of the nation’s first fine art photography department, led by Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute), and continues today with a number of nationally recognized photography programs at local art schools. Other civic-minded institutions like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have also spurred the growth and development of the medium through important exhibitions and helped to establish our understanding of photography’s place within art history. This strong history and tradition of support have undoubtedly contributed to the growth of the committed community of photography collectors residing in the Bay Area today.
Collected—the eighth exhibition at Pier 24 Photography—brings together photographs from the Pilara Foundation and other Bay Area collections. Nine collectors were invited to select works from their holdings that reflect their interests in the medium. The exhibition thus offers a lens on various collecting approaches, with some collectors focusing on the work of particular artists or on specific art historical movements or themes, and others developing their own criteria, whether deliberately or unconsciously. Spanning the last hundred years of the medium, the selections on view here reflect each collector’s strong understanding of photography while also highlighting the singular sensibilities guiding the deeply personal act of collecting. Yet for all their variety, the assembled photographs also reveal the shared traits that unite all passionate collectors: curiosity and discipline paired with rigorous study and close looking.