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Exhibitions/ Grand Illusions

Grand Illusions: Staged Photography from the Met Collection

At The Met Fifth Avenue
August 10, 2015–January 18, 2016

Exhibition Overview

Photographers, like ventriloquists, can cast "voices" in a seemingly infinite number of genres and period styles. This does not negate the camera's direct relationship to the world—tying image to subject as naturally as a footprint—but instead reveals that photographs are always admixtures of fiction and reality tilted toward one end of the scale or the other.

This survey of the ways in which photographers invent their images is not definitive or complete, but instead suggests the varieties of experience available to photography when the imaginary is pictured as if it were real. The selection also points toward photography's inherently promiscuous relationship with other mediums such as literature and film, not to mention its persuasive powers when used in advertising. The artists of our era, raised on the fictions of postwar consumer culture, use the assumed truthfulness of photography against itself to question how we think we know the world, the past, and ourselves. Leaving off at the end of the analog era, this survey brings the viewer to the precipice of a brave new world of digital manipulation that is bound to become ever more seamless to the naked eye.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in

Exhibition Objects

Pierre-Louis Pierson (French, 1822–1913); Aquilin Schad (Austrian, 1817–1866). La Frayeur (Fright), 1861–64. Salted paper print with gouache. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Camille M. Lownds Fund, Joyce F. Menschel Gift, Louis V. Bell and 2012 Benefit Funds, and C. Jay Moorhead Foundation Gift, 2015 (2015.395)