press release

In Focus presents more than 50 photographs by many of the best known and inventive American and international photographers working today. The works in the exhibition—in their diversity, visual impact, and with few exceptions large and colorful format—comprise a remarkable survey of contemporary photography. With In Focus the Museum presents for the first time a photography exhibition taken from a single, private collection. The exhibition is drawn from the collection of Allen G. Thomas, Jr. of Wilson, N.C. Photography is one of today’s most vital and imaginative art forms. Long removed from the days when the medium’s artistic integrity was questioned and photographs were considered more a science than an art, contemporary photographers constantly experiment with both innovative and traditional subject matter to further define the medium. In addition, many photo artists are eager to employ new technical advancements that seemingly bend the very definition of a photograph. Such imagery also creates a strong visual impact on viewers. Enhanced by their large scale, these works compete for wall space with paintings and are linked to the video arts.

Limited only by their imaginations, photo artists constantly blur the boundaries between the real and the artificial, the posed and the constructed. Unlike more overtly fictive photographs, in which technical trickery and/or blatantly staged elements distort reality, the majority of the works selected for this exhibition are an offshoot of a more traditional, captured approach to the medium. Translated to a large scale, aided by color enhancement, and often accompanied by a strong psychological component, their impact serves to make the ordinary seem extraordinary. In this exhibition viewers will encounter a number of photographic techniques, as well as styles ranging from realism and minimalism to expressionism. Equally diverse is the imagery, which has been organized in three subject categories: Place, Identity, and the Natural World.

With few exceptions, all of the works selected for the exhibition are large-scale, color photographs created during the past decade. Although more than 50 photographs by an international array of artists are presented, the selection represents only part of Thomas’s growing collection. Like all great collectors, he shows a passion for the art and has an abiding desire to learn more about the artists and their works.

Collector's Statement

Collecting art was never an intentional act. I asked my Aunt Diana years ago when she knew it was time to stop buying art. Her response was that people stop when they run out of wall space. From the beginning that never seemed to matter to me. What I like most about collecting art is the act of buying someone’s passion and being able to take a piece of it home. Meeting an artist or having a studio tour invites you to see the art through their eyes. It’s a personal, often revealing, experience. It may stem from the fact that I have absolutely no artistic abilities. I’ve tried it all: ceramics, leather, painting, screen printing, intaglio printing, and wood. I was terrible at all of them, but I was good at buying the better works from the other students who actually had some talent. In short, I was better at buying art than making it.

I started collecting contemporary photography about ten years ago, when I stumbled into a gallery in New Orleans called A Gallery for Fine Photography on Royal Street. I was immediately struck by the “reality” of photography. I was very interested, at first, in the captured moment. Now I find myself drawn to the more narrative works; staged and manipulated images fascinate me. Instead of recording history, with digital photography you can make it. The works of Anthony Goicolea, Simen Johan, and Loretta Lux are perfect examples of how artists make the unreal real.

The melding process between artist and collector is one of the great benefits of collecting. One of my favorite experiences was commissioning a handprint by the South African–born artist Gary Schneider. Although all I supplied was the hand, the process was one of my great life experiences. When I see the print now, it takes me back there, and the image takes on a life of its own.

Allen G. Thomas Jr.


In Focus: Contemporary Photography From The Allen G. Thomas Jr. Collection

Werke von Kate Breakey, Andrew Bush, Maria Martinez Canas, Rineke Dijkstra, George Duncan, Adam Fuss, Anthony Goicolea, Bill Henson, Todd Hido, David Hillard, Bill Jacobson, Simen Johan, Tim Lehmacher, Carrie Levy, Loretta Lux, Sally Mann, Ryan McGinley, Andrew Moore, Walter Martin & Paloma Munoz, Vik Muniz, Jack Pierson, Orit Raff, Gary Schneider, Andres Serrano, Paul Shambroom, Alec Soth, Doug & Mike Starn, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Susan Unterberg, Terri Weifenbach