Photography of John Jacob by Friedrich Nill.

John Jacob

McEvoy Family Curator for Photography

John Jacob is the museum’s McEvoy Family Curator for Photography; he joined the curatorial staff in July 2015. His responsibilities include research, exhibitions and acquisitions related to the museum’s collection. His research interests include American vernacular photography, social history and women photographers. See full staff bio.


  • Galleries for Modern and Contemporary Art
    The Smithsonian American Art Museum's galleries for modern and contemporary art display selections from the permanent collection from the 1940s to the present.
    September 22, 2023 January 31, 2033
  • Carrie Mae Weems: Looking Forward, Looking Back
    This focused exhibition pairs two projects by Carrie Mae Weems—a major multimedia installation and a series of photographs—that revisit moments from history.
    September 22, 2023 July 7, 2024
  • J. P. Ball and Robert S. Duncanson: An African American Artistic Collaboration
    This focused exhibition pairs artwork by two Black artists working in the mid-nineteenth century—photographer J. P. Ball and painter Robert S. Duncanson.
    September 15, 2023 March 24, 2024
  • Welcome Home: A Portrait of East Baltimore, 1975 – 1980
    Welcome Home: A Portrait of East Baltimore, 1975-1980 captures a cross-section of East Baltimore residents and businesses in the 1970s, documenting the community’s history and diversity.
    July 16, 2021 January 23, 2022
  • Dawoud Bey and William H. Johnson
    This focused installation features recently acquired photographs by Dawoud Bey in conversation with a painting by William H. Johnson that refer to the Underground Railroad.
    May 12, 2021 August 5, 2021
  • Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen
    Trevor Paglen blurs the lines between art, science, and investigative journalism to construct unfamiliar and at times unsettling ways to see and interpret the world around us.
    June 21, 2018 January 6, 2019
  • Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs 
    This exhibition traces the history of A box of ten photographs between 1969 and 1973, telling the crucial story of the portfolio that established the foundation for Arbus’s posthumous career.
    April 6, 2018 January 27, 2019
  • American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times
    President John F. Kennedy’s administration coincided with a golden age of photojournalism in America— and no single politician was photographed more than Kennedy.
    May 3, 2017 September 17, 2017
  • Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten
    At the height of the Harlem Renaissance, Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964) picked up a camera and discovered the power the photographic portrait has over the photographer himself.
    August 25, 2016 April 1, 2017


  • This is an image of the beach with the Paglen logo on top.
    Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen
    A midcareer survey of this MacArthur Award–winning artist, this catalogue presents Paglen’s early photographic series alongside his recent sculptural objects and new work with artificial intelligence.
  • An image of Diane Arbus' book over in white with writing on it.
    Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs
    In late 1969, Diane Arbus (1923–1971) began to work on a portfolio. She titled it A box of ten photographs. This catalogue traces the history of A box of ten photographs using the eleven-print set that she made for Bea Feitler, art director at Harper’s Bazaar. It was acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1986 and is the only one of the portfolios completed and sold by Arbus that is publicly held.  All eleven prints are beautifully reproduced, along with their handwritten vellums.
  • HarlemHeroes_500.jpg
    Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten
    Author Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964) began making portraits in 1932. Over the next three decades, he asked writers, musicians, athletes, politicians, and others to sit for him—many of them central figures in the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten features thirty-nine images of men and women who not only fueled the New Negro movement, but also transformed the broader American culture—including James Baldwin, Ossie Davis, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ella Fitzgerald, Althea Gibson, Langston Hughes, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Bessie Smith, and others. The book includes an essay by John Jacob and biographical sketches for each sitter.

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