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.

Exhibitions

  • Welcome Home: A Portrait of East Baltimore, 1975-1980

    July 16, 2021 — January 23, 2022
    Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and G Streets, NW)
    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.  These photographs by Elinor Cahn, Joan Clark Netherwood, and Linda Rich were taken as part of a program of photography surveys sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts to celebrate the bicentennial of founding of the United States.
  • American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times

    May 3, 2017 – September 17, 2017
    Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and G Streets, NW)
    President John F. Kennedy’s administration coincided with a golden age of photojournalism in America— and no single politician was photographed more than Kennedy. Photographers and newsreel cameramen used images of Kennedy and his young family to convey a vision of a new America—a sophisticated world power engaged in building a bright future for its citizens. Kennedy, in turn, understood the power of pictures to convey his message to voters and was a willing partner in crafting his public persona to help build support for the space program, the Peace Corps, legislation on civil rights and immigration, equal pay for women, federal health insurance for the elderly—initiatives that would ensure a more diverse and egalitarian America.
  • Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten

    August 25, 2016 — April 1, 2017
    Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and G Streets, NW)
    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. Over the decades, his fascination with the medium remained strong and he asked writers, musicians, athletes, politicians, and others to sit for him—many of them central figures in the Harlem Renaissance whose accomplishments fueled not only the New Negro movement but also transformed the broader American culture throughout the twentieth century. These groundbreaking men and women included James Baldwin, Ossie Davis, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ella Fitzgerald, Althea Gibson, Langston Hughes, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Bessie Smith, and others. Some of the portraits capture their subjects on the cusp of success as they were full of ambition but before they became famous; others depict men and women looking back on long and varied careers, tested by the fickleness of fortune.

Books

  • 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.
  • 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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