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NEA Sponsored Photography

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) began awarding grants to individual photographers in 1971 and in 1976 launched a survey program that documented life in California, Kentucky, and other states. The Documentary Survey category underscored an interest at the agency and among photographers alike in new styles of documentary photography to record the land and people of the United States at the time of the country’s bicentennial. In 1983, the NEA transferred approximately 1,800 photographs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum (at the time, called the National Museum of American Art). The collection, which also includes works by mid-century masters Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan, and Helen Levitt, represents a generation of young photographers working at the beginning of the seventies, Master of Fine Arts degrees in hand, who cared more about making images than about making perfect prints. Although stylistically diverse, they also believed that art, whether made outdoors or in the studio, is valuable and meaningful to society.

© 1976, Helen Levitt
© 1973, Lewis Baltz
© 1975, Bill Burke
© 1974, Barbara Crane
© 1980, Judy Fiskin
©1972, Steve Fitch
© John R. Gossage
© 1980, Emmet Gowin Courtesy Pace/MacGill, New York
© 1975, Anthony Hernandez
©1976, Robert K. Hower
©1971, Joseph D. Jachna
© 1975, Kenneth Josephson
©1970, William Larson
©1979, Kenneth McGowan
© 1973, Ray K. Metzker
© 1973, Arthur Tress
© 1973, Jerry N. Uelsmann
© 1977, T.M. Wathen
© 1978, Geoff Winningham
©1974, Terry Evans