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Where We Live: American Photographs from the Berman Collection at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, October 24, 2006-February 25, 2007

Presentation Marks the Opening of the Getty Museums New Center for Photographs

August 3, 2006

LOS ANGELES—A wide-ranging survey of life in the U.S. since the 1960s will be on view in Where We Live: American Photographs from the Berman Collection, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, October 24, 2006–February 25, 2007.  The exhibition showcases the richness of American color photography in nearly 170 works by 24 important contemporary artists, and includes works that will be shown for the first time.

The presentation marks the opening of the Getty Museum's new and expanded suite of galleries devoted to photographs, reflecting the importance of the art form in the Getty's collection. Expanding from 1,700 to 7,000 square feet, the new Center for Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum reaffirms the Getty Museum, and Los Angeles, as a major center for photography and provides for the most diverse program of exhibitions of any museum. The Center for Photographs also underscores the Getty’s commitment to acquiring, displaying, and interpreting contemporary photographs.

The new galleries mirror the tremendous growth of the Getty Museum’s photographs collection through acquisitions and key donations from collectors such as Nancy and Bruce Berman.  Where We Live draws from nearly 500 examples of postwar American photography donated by the Bermans to the Museum over the past eight years. The collection recognizes that the ordinary markers of life—barns, churches, billboards, and Main Streets of even the smallest towns—may one day be historic artifacts.  The photographs that the Bermans have donated to the Getty form an archive of late 20th-century American life.

Among the photographers represented in the exhibition are John Divola, Jim Dow, Doug Dubois, William Eggleston, Mitch Epstein, Karen Halverson, Alex Harris, Sheron Rupp, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, George Tice, and the team of Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee.  Working mostly in color and in a range of styles, the photographers' diverse backgrounds in sociology, anthropology, art, and psychology inform their efforts to document the country from the 1960s onwards.  The resulting images speak of the vast social, geographical, and psychological landscape of the country, offering insight into life in postwar America.

Where We Live features subjects ranging from the American landscape to popular culture.  Included are John Divola's photographs of isolated structures in the Southern California desert that seem to mark the final edge of a vast urban sprawl, and Camilo Jose Vergara's testament to resilience in his images of churches in poor neighborhoods established in former stores, garages, factories, and other abandoned buildings.

William Eggleston's family and friends appear as subjects in his snapshot-style pictures, offering quick slices of life.  His domestic revelations include what is in the refrigerator, under the bed, in the laundry room, or soaking in the sink.  Other photographers such as Mary Kocol and Joel Meyerowitz explore traditional American family icons, like the white picket fence and the decorated Christmas tree.

The exhibition also includes personal journeys, among them William Christenberry's observances of the subtle changes to pastoral Hale County, Alabama, where he grew up; David Husom's fascination with the fairground architecture of his home state of Minnesota; and Doug Dubois' portraits of life in the mining town of Avella, Pennsylvania, as influenced by his grandmother's memories.

This exhibition is curated by Judith Keller, Associate Curator, and Anne Lacoste, Assistant Curator, in the Department of Photographs.

GettyGuide™ Audio Player: Hear the Collector and Artists
The audio guide for Where We Live: American Photographs from the Berman Collection includes a special feature: excerpts of recorded interviews with the collector and six of the artists. Visitors can hear Berman discussing his approach to collecting, and Christenberry, Eggleston, Epstein, Halverson, Rupp, and Vergara sharing personal reflections about the people and places depicted in their works on view.

Exhibition Catalogue
Accompanying the exhibition will be a 200-page color catalogue, Where We Live: American Photographs from the Berman Collection, with full color illustrations of all the photographs that will be on view in the exhibition, along with essays written by photography historian and critic Colin Westerbeck, USC professor Kenneth Breisch, and Los Angeles novelist Bruce Wagner.

The Collectors: Bruce and Nancy Berman
Over the past 15 years, Nancy and Bruce Berman have collected work by a large number of photographers, as they have found themselves drawn to certain subjects rather than individual artists' careers.  What has united the photographers in their collection is that they are passionate—not sentimental—about America. Their feeling for their subject matter springs from an intense, frequently personal relationship with it, tempered by a sense of self-restraint.

Bruce Berman is chairman of Village Roadshow Pictures, a prominent film production company affiliated with Warner Brothers.  Among the films he has produced are Goodfellas, Training Day, Ocean's Eleven, Mystic River, and the Matrix series.  He is a founding member of the J. Paul Getty Museum's Photographs Council.

The New Center for Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center
Located on the Terrace Level of the West Pavilion, the J. Paul Getty Museum's new 7,000-square-foot series of galleries at the Getty Center will be one of the largest spaces dedicated to photographs in North America.  Three times the size of the former exhibition space, the new galleries will be specially reconfigured to provide the ideal environment for the display of photographs. The space was made available by the relocation of the Museum's antiquities collection from the Getty Center to the Getty Villa, which opened in January 2006.  The Center for Photographs features a newly redesigned entrance by Richard Meier and Partners, the architects of the Getty Center, that is approached through a dramatic open-air courtyard that will feature newly installed 20th-century works from the Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Collection. The sculptures will be unveiled in full in January 2007 across the Getty Center site.

The new Center for Photographs will allow the Museum to mount a broader range of presentations, including loan exhibitions, and will provide opportunities for greater collaboration between the Museum and other programs of the J. Paul Getty Trust.  The special collections at the Getty Research Institute hold rare historical images and photography archives for study purposes, while the Getty Conservation Institute is a leader in research on the conservation of photographs.

The J. Paul Getty Museum's Department of Photographs
The J. Paul Getty Museum's Department of Photographs was established in 1984 with the acquisition of several major American and European collections.  Since then, the photographs holdings have grown to include more than 31,000 works, with gifts to the Museum expanding the collection dramatically in the past five years.  Ranging from daguerreotypes and other examples from photography's experimental beginnings in England and France in the 1830s to the fine art and social documentary traditions of the 20th century, the collection has made the Getty an important center for the study of the history and art of photography.  Over the last 22 years, the department has presented 80 exhibitions and produced more than 43 publications.

Public Faces/Private Spaces: Recent Acquisitions
October 10, 2006 - February 4, 2007

Recently acquired work by four accomplished American photographers is presented in this exhibition, with an emphasis on images made from the mid-1960s through the early 1980s. Incorporating elements of portraiture, social documentation, and street photography, selected works by Donald Blumberg, Anthony Hernandez, Mary Ellen Mark and Bill Owens demonstrate a commitment to observing the people and places that define community.

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Beth Laski
Getty Communications Dept.

About the Getty:

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