John Jacob, The McEvoy Family Curator for Photography

John Jacob is the McEvoy Family Curator for Photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; 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.

Jacob was curator of “Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten” (2016) and the coordinating curator for “American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times” (2017). In 2018 he organized the exhibitions “Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs” and “Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen.” 

Previously, Jacob was vice president and director of the Inge Morath Foundation. He also was program director at the Magnum Foundation for its Legacy Program that manages materials related to the history of Magnum Photos. Recent exhibitions include the internationally touring “Man Ray: Unconcerned But Not Indifferent” (2007; co-curator with Noriko Fuku), “Inge Morath: First Color” (2009) and “Erich Hartmann: New York Stories, 1946–1957” (2012).

Recent publications include Inge Morath: On Style (Abrams, 2016), Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten (2016), Ernst Haas: On Set (Steidl, 2015) and Kodak Girl: The Martha Cooper Collection (Steidl, 2011). Jacob’s research on spirit photography and the tintype, for which he received the 2012 Shpilman Award for Excellence in Photography from the Israel Museum, will be published by the museum as Ghost Stories: Found Photography and the Certification of Presence.

Jacob began his career as an artist, working with reproductive media including photography, rubber-stamps, mail art and artist’s books. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine in 1981 and master’s degree in art history from Indiana University in 1994. He attended the Getty Leadership Institute in 1996.

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the most significant and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and G streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. Both locations are closed temporarily as a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Follow the museum on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website:

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