“Landmarks” Opens at Williams College Museum of Art

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) is delighted to announce the opening of Landmarks, the first survey of its robust photography holdings. Featuring more than 100 works spanning nearly 120 years, the exhibition explores how human beings have used photographic processes to orient and define themselves in relation to the natural and built environment.

The works on view are selected for their resonance with the multivalent term “landmark”­ and can be explored along four thematic pathways: landmark events, buildings as landmarks, landmark features of specific environments, and landmark impressions. The majority of the photographs in the exhibition focus on the human altered landscape and the tension between natural and built environments. Evoking current conversations around climate change, space colonization, and the impact of technologies that have major repercussions for our species, Robert Misrach’s haunting Desert Croquet #1 (Deflated World) of 1987 is featured, as well as an evocative image from the archives of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Other works such as those by LaToya Ruby Frazier, Fabrice Monteiro, and James H. Karales bring issues of social justice, poverty, racism, and inequality to the fore.

This survey exhibition affirms WCMA’s commitment to collecting, exhibiting, and teaching with works that provoke conversation and research on the most important questions of our time. “Photography comprises roughly one-quarter of the museum collection and has been an area of focused growth over the past few decades, through both generous gifts and museum acquisitions,” states Class of 1956 Director Pamela Franks. “Landmarks showcases how the museum continues to collect with an eye toward greater inclusivity and diversity of artist identities and global perspectives. The photographs on view lend themselves to rich educational experiences for Williams College students and faculty and for all museum visitors.”

For nearly 200 years, human imagination and reason have returned to specific photographic images of certain places again and again, lending some the status of “landmark” works in the history of photography. WCMA has collected some of these great examples of nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century ingenuity in the framing of place by artists such as Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Robert Adams, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Edward Burtynsky, Harry Callahan, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Barbara Morgan, Walter

Rosenblum, Raghubir Singh, Aaron Siskind, Garry Winogrand, and Marion Post Wolcott. In the current presentation, these luminaries are arranged in concert with contemporary voices building upon, and challenging, repertoires of site and sight such as Oliver Boberg, Gregory Crewdson, Christina Fernandez, Dionisio González, Andreas Gursky, Daniel Kukla, Susan Meiselas, Elle Pérez, and Alec Soth.

In conjunction with the exhibition, curator of American art Horace Ballard teaches a seminar course titled Landscape, Theory, Ideology and invites the public to join two class conversations in the exhibition. WCMA also welcomes guest scholars and artists, including Clifton Granby and Michael Kolster, to be part of public programs that encourage discourse around the ethical, environmental, and political issues raised by the works on view. The exhibition asks, but does not seek to answer, the question “What is a landscape?” Instead, visitors are invited to answer it for themselves, and in relation to each image they encounter. Ballard writes in Field Notes, the exhibition publication: “To my thinking, a landscape is not a genre; it is rather a technique, tool, or mode of envisioning the world and our relationship to it—with all the real and metaphorical sense of constancy and change that technological innovations to human sight would imply. Each photographer defines a landscape differently. In our role as viewers, each of us will take something unique from our communion with these objects.”

Landmarks is on view through May 5, 2020. For full program details and other information, visit the museum website:

On View

January 25–May 5, 2020


Exhibition Credits

Organized by Horace D. Ballard, Curator of American Art, with contributions from Julie Reiter, M.A. ’19

Exhibition Publication

Field Notes (Williams College Museum of Art, 2020). Printed press copies available on request. Digital publication available at:

Related Programs

Towards Ecological Community: A Conversation with Clifton Granby

Thursday, Feb. 13, 5:30 pm

Clifton Granby is professor of Ethics and Philosophy at Yale Divinity School and a scholar of African American religious, political, and philosophical thought. His research and teaching reflect an interdisciplinary approach to the study of race and religion, ethics, social epistemology, and theories of freedom, power, and ignorance. His recent and ongoing writing projects explore climate denial, the ethics of social criticism and racial injustice, and the politics of listening.

Open Class Session: Landscape, Theory, Ideology

Thursday, Feb. 20, 11:00 am–12:00 pm

Join exhibition curator Horace Ballard and art history graduate students for a public conversation in the Landmarks exhibition.

Season Celebration

Thursday, February 20, 5:00 pm

Celebrate Landmarks and WCMA’s full slate of spring exhibitions with festivities including refreshments and student performances.

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Landscape and the Environment

Thursday, March 12, 5:30 pm

A conversation with curator of American art Horace Ballard, professor of Environmental Studies Laura J. Martin, and photographer Michael Kolster.

Open Class Session: Landscape, Theory, Ideology

Wednesday, April 22, 11:00 am–12:00 pm

Join exhibition curator Horace Ballard and art history graduate students for a public conversation in the Landmarks exhibition.

Williams College Museum of Art

The Williams College Museum of Art makes dynamic art experiences to incite new thinking about art, museums, and the world. At the heart of the Williams College campus, the museum draws on the collaborative and multidisciplinary ethos of the surrounding college to enliven the more than 15,000 works in its growing collection. The museum and its collection are a catalyst for student learning and community engagement. WCMA is located on Main Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The museum is open 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Thursdays 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, and closed Wednesdays from September through May. In June, July, and August WCMA is open every day 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and 10:00 am to 8:00 pm on Thursdays. WCMA is free and open to all. For more information, contact the museum at 413-597-2429 or visit

Press Contacts

Joellen Adae, Director of Communications, [email protected], 413-597-3352

Rebecca Dravis, Communications Assistant, [email protected], 413-597-3127