Place of Illumination
Established in 1996 to stand alongside the literary archives, the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection represents the history of the medium from the 19th century to the present, with an emphasis to date on fine-art prints created using traditional darkroom techniques. A major component is modern and contemporary imagery from Mexico; one of the largest archives of its type in the U.S.
Displaying works primarily from its growing treasury of over 24,500 prints by more than 150 artists, the Wittliff also travels its exhibitions nationally and internationally, offers online presentations highlighting the collection, and showcases its artists in a book series with the University of Texas Press. Extensive supplementary materials such as books and rare editions, portfolios, magazines, videos, and ephemera lend further insight into this ever-advancing art form and the careers of its artists.
Committed in its mission to instruct, illuminate, and inspire, the Wittliff opens each new exhibit with a celebratory reception and informative program featuring the photographer and/or scholars elaborating on the work at hand. All are welcome.
Significant among the Wittliff’s holdings is our nation’s largest collection of modern, and contemporary works by leading photojournalists and fine-art photographers from Mexico. Prints by modern masters such as Lola Álvarez Bravo, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Lázaro Blanco, Héctor García, Kati Horna, Nacho López, Rodrigo Moya, and Mariana Yampolsky form a bedrock of influence from which the imagery of the next generation can be seen to rise.
This contemporary guard includes such celebrated image-makers as Graciela Iturbide, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, and Antonio Turok, who are internationally renowned for the strength, range, rarity, and importance of their vision. Also contributing to the impact of the medium in Mexico and beyond are photographers whose distinguished careers continue to gain momentum, such as Yolanda Andrade, Marco Antonio Cruz, Maya Goded, Eniac Martínez Ulloa, Raúl Ortega, and Francisco Mata Rosas. Additionally, the Mexican collection includes an important documentary archive of historical photographs.
Lending further weight to the Wittliff’s repository of original prints are iconic images of the Southwest and Mexico by some of the world’s greatest names in photography: Geronimo (1905) by Edward Curtis, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1941) by Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keefe (1956) by Yousuf Karsh, and Willie Nelson, Luck Ranch, Spicewood, Texas (2001) by Annie Leibovitz, to name but a few.
Add to this list works by François Aubert, Hugo Brehme, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Laura Gilpin, Danny Lyon, Richard Misrach, Tina Modotti, Erwin E. Smith, Sebastião Salgado, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Garry Winogrand, and Joel-Peter Witkin, among others. Since its founding, the Wittliff has established the major collections of many notable contemporary artists, illuminating the arc of their creative development. These include Kate Breakey, Keith Carter, Jayne Hinds Bidaut, Ken Rosenthal, Josephine Sacabo, Rocky Schenck, and Geoff Winningham, as well as Bill Wittliff, who is highly regarded for both his camera work and print making.
While traditional silver-gelatin darkroom prints make up the core of the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection, images created using other processes are also included. Daguerreotypes, cyanotypes, tintypes, photogravures, and, more recently, archival digital prints represent the possibilities of the medium and preserve the exquisite and historic techniques of picture making for tomorrow’s students and lovers of photography.
As with the Writers Collection, utmost care is taken to safeguard the prints. Organized in archival boxes and protective sleeves or framed with archival mats, all are stored in a temperature-controlled environment. In addition to photographs on display in several exhibitions throughout the year, the majority of framed and unframed prints in the collection are available for viewing by appointment.