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Berkeleyan

‘World in a Frame’: Photo images from the exploration age

| 19 March 2003

 

felice beato image

Scene along the Tokaido Road (?)
Japan; 1867–68.

Photograph by Felice A. Beato

During the great age of travel and exploration, extending from the mid-19th century through the early decades of the 20th, explorers charted the wilds of the American West, builders completed North America’s first transcontinental railroad, anthropologists and ethnographers documented American Indian tribal life, and their counterparts abroad explored Asia, the Middle East, and the far corners of the Earth.

These journeys went hand in hand with another development — the invention of photography at the end of the 1830s. Practitioners of the new technology — despite bulky cameras, mammoth photographic plates, and unforgiving processing techniques — documented this age, creating the first visual representations (that Western eyes would behold, at any rate) of many peoples, cultures, and landscapes.

It is this convergence of photography and exploration that the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology showcases in a new exhibition, “The World in a Frame: Photographs from the Great Age of Exploration, 1865-1915.” Included in the show are 35 photographic prints from the museum’s collections — among them works by Carleton Watkins and Edward Curtis, photographers of the American West; Felice Beato, who captured the rapid modernization of Japan during the Meiji period; and the firm of Maison Bonfils, based in Beirut, Lebanon, which popularized images from the last decades of the Ottoman Empire.

The exhibit at Hearst Museum, located in Kroeber Hall, runs from Friday, March 7, through March 2004. The images currently on display will be rotated in the fall to show a second set of prints from the museum’s extensive collections.

Admission is free for museum members and campus staff, faculty, and students. For an online tour of the show, see hearstmuseum.berkeley.edu and select “exhibitions.”