Griffin Museum of Photography:
Celebrating the Art of Photography
It seems fitting in this month of hearts that I would visit a museum whose founder’s passion for photography—which critics once questioned as art—inspired him to build a place where this medium could be explored and celebrated for its rightful place in the art world.
Located on the tranquil shores of Judkins Pond in Winchester, MA, the Griffin Museum of Photography occupies a charming fieldstone house designed by Royal Barry Wills, which I first mistook as a quintessential Cape Cod style home. Walking up the brick pathway and through the rustic wooden door, I was introduced to the life and career of photographer and museum founder Arthur Griffin.
Although originally trained as an illustrator, in 1929 Griffin purchased a second-hand folding Brownie camera, the tool that would define his artistic purpose for the rest of his life. Best know as one of New England’s earliest photojournalists, Griffin’s images were published in Life and Time magazines during the 1930s and 1940s. He later went on to pioneer sports and landscape color photography. In 1992 Griffin realized his grandest vision—a museum dedicated to promoting the appreciation of photography as an art form and broadening the public’s understanding of its visual, emotional, and social impact.
Years after Griffin’s death in 2001, the Griffin Museum is still committed to his vision: housing 75,000 archive images and providing gallery space for rotating exhibitions of well-known photographers and newer artists emerging on the scene. You can view these works in the museum’s seven galleries: three onsite and four satellite galleries located in and around Winchester.
The first space I explored was the Atelier Gallery, which featured the exhibit “City of Champions” by photographer Mary Beth Meehan. A native of Brockton, MA, Meehan captures images of the vanishing landscape of her childhood—a town that is struggling with economic hardship, a changing population, and a growing divide between “old” and “new.” The works invite the viewer to consider the changing identities of a post-industrial American city, within the context of its historic urban landscape.
I was drawn next into the Griffin Gallery, where I found a video stream of artist Patricia Lay-Dorsey talking about her self-portrait project “Falling Into Place.” Through the use of wireless remote-control shutters and self-timers, Lay-Dorsey tells the story of a woman who was once a marathon runner and cyclist, and gives us an insider’s view of her day-to-day life and struggles as a person with multiple sclerosis. The authenticity of this exhibit comes through when you start to imagine what it must be like for Lay-Dorsey not only to live in her body, but also to be the photographer using herself as a subject. All defenses must fall away…very powerful!
The Main Gallery, largest of the three, is a bright and expansive space with exposed wood beams and white walls that showcased the works of David Pace in “Burkina Faso: Night and Day.” This exhibit featured photographs of the landscape, culture and people of a small, rural country in West Africa. From his rich earthy images of men working the sculptural landscape of Karaba Quarries in the heat of the day to the kinetic Friday night photos of villagers dancing in the dark at Le Cotonnier, Pace portrays the simple, beautiful aspects of everyday life that are seldom depicted of Africa. A must see!
There is more to see and do at the Griffin Museum.
Check out these upcoming programs and events:
Elliot by Judy Brown
Stunning minimalist and abstract images that celebrate the power, spirit, and mysterious qualities of horses.
And Again: Photographs from the Harvard Forest by John Hirsch
Images of the research forest that encourage the viewer to probe and reflect on the ideas of community, recreation, and land use in America.
Initial Intake by Saul Robbins
From the point of view of the client, this series of photographs examines the empty chairs and office surroundings of psychotherapy professionals.
Enjoy an evening of “toasting and tasting” at the Griffin Museum’s annual gala, featuring a menu selection from area restaurants and wine/beer merchants.
Photo Summer Camp 2013
Is your child a shutterbug or just curious about photography? Give them the chance to express themselves through the lens of a camera at the Griffin Museum’s summer photography workshop.
I realized upon leaving the museum that I did not draw in the sketchbook that I carry with me on all my Creative Day visits. It’s not that I wasn’t inspired; on the contrary, I was, very much so. It’s just that these works of art and the stories they tell could not be better understood or appreciated than in their chosen medium...photography.
So give you and your loved ones a sweet gift this Valentine’s Day and visit the Griffin Museum of Photography. I think you’ll agree that photography has won our hearts and its rightful place in the art world.