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The New York State Museum is currently holding two excellent photographic exhibits. The larger of the two is “This Great Nation Will Endure,” Photographs of the Great Depression. Many of these creations of the photographic unit of the Farm Security Administration are familiar, iconic images – Bourke-White’s “At the Time of the Louisville Flood,” several of Dorothea Lange’s controversial photos of Frances Thompson (“Migrant Mother”). But many of them are unfamiliar works by the talented photographers of the FSA, including Ben Shahn, Walker Evans and John Vachon. Well worth the visit, but it’s only open until March 14.
More interesting and varied is “Seeing Ourselves: Masterpieces of American Photography from the George Eastman House Collection.” A few photographs are in both exhibits, but this one features not only the documentary power of Lewis Wickes Hine and Dorothea Lange, but also features images created for commercial, artistic, and personal reasons. There is less that is familiar here, and some genuine surprises – an 1857 daguerrotype of a beautifully dressed African-American girl, and a revelatory photograph from 1983 by Mary Ellen Mark, “Tiny in her Halloween Costume,” that touched me more than any photograph has in ages. This show will be on through May 9, and I’m sure to go back at least once more.