Movement: Selections from the First Decade of the Visual Studies Workshop is an online exhibition showcasing an assortment of over 100 pieces from working artists affiliated with the Visual Studies Workshop in the 1970s. These selected artists demonstrate the early years of a revolutionary new institution.

Founded in 1969 by former George Eastman House curator Nathan Lyons, the Visual Studies Workshop was created as a non-profit collective center for photographic arts and education. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the perception of the photographic image was in flux as young American artists were beginning to challenge convention. A new movement of radical photographic experimentation was emerging that would question the foundations of photography and force its way through the doors of academia.

Prior to this revolution, the overriding opinion of photography as an art form followed Henri Cartier-Bresson’s notion of “the decisive moment,” and the definition put forth by John Szarkowski in his influential 1973 book Looking at Photographs: “A system of picture making that describes more or less faithfully what might be seen through a rectangular frame from a particular vantage point at a given moment.”

The community at the Visual Studies Workshop was at the heart of this new movement, in direct opposition with the photographic status quo. As one of the first Master of Fine Arts programs offered in photography in the United States, the Visual Studies Workshop was, and remains, a place where challenging conventions is encouraged.

The Visual Studies Workshop Collection has been built from works given to the institution as well as those collected by Nathan Lyons. Integral to the collection are the works left by past MFA students and other artists working at the Visual Studies Workshop. The process by which student work is acquired has come to be known as “leaving a trace” or the “trace” policy. Other works have been given to the collection by Visual Studies Workshop participants, visiting artists and also through estate bequests. Building a collection in this way continues to provide a valuable resource for subsequent graduate students, artists and researchers.

The work included in this exhibition was selected from the Visual Studies Workshop Print Collection by the following students: Michael Bartolotta, Nalina Chellam, Philippe Gouvernet, Romy Hosford, Fumiko Koizumi, Michael Leonard, Jaimee Lindvay, Sara McKenna, Joshua Bucci Morris, Kelly Watson and Robyn York as part of a course led by instructor Jessica S. McDonald. Many of the artists may also have works in other areas of the collection in addition to selected prints.

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