Boston exhibition features a century of mysterious snapshots

JamieK

JamieK

2015-07-17 14:04:24

A fascinating collection of mysterious snapshots feature in a new photography exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

'Unfinished Stories' features almost 300 found photographs from the collection of Peter J. Cohen, who has spent the past 25 years amassing a collection of more than 50,000 pictures.

Cohen has acquired these lost, discarded or disowned photographs from flea markets, antique shops, galleries, eBay and private dealers, assembling a collection of anonymous subjects spanning a century of social history.

Removed from their original context, the images can offer a humorous or surreal window into the lives of strangers, providing, as Cohen puts it, "a teeny part of a story that remains unfinished".

Over the years Cohen has organized the photographs into a variety of his own categories, including 'Dangerous Women', 'Double Exposures', 'People at Play', 'Photographers’ Shadows', 'Couples', 'Oddities' and 'Hula Madness'.

“Are these pictures the equivalent of pictures by Stieglitz or Steichen or Diane Arbus?” said Cohen, in an interview with local Boston website The Artery. “No, probably not. But they’re incredibly interesting, and in many respects predate work that was done by professionals by decades.”

“I think many people will be surprised to see snap shots in an exhibition in a museum,” adde MFA curator of photography Karen Haas. “But now as they become more historical objects — and we the public really experience photographs on our phones and on screens and through Instagram and all — these talismans are really becoming sort of untethered from the families and owners who know who the people are and know the stories behind them.”

'Unfinished Stories: Snapshots from the Peter J. Cohen Collection' runs from July 11, 2015 until February 21, 2016.

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