Sadly, another of my mentors has died. Ted Hartwell was the founding curator of the photography department at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Ted suffered a major stroke last Thursday and sadly he did not recover; his obituary is posted here. As was the case for other senior members of our curatorial community, Ted was the photographer at the museum, and when a local collector donated a full set of Camera Work in the late ’60′s, they turned to Ted for guidance. Under his direction the collection grew to more than 10,000 objects. I can’t tell you how exciting it was for a young high school kid (me) to see the Richard Avedon portrait retrospective that Ted organized in 1970. Avedon, along with the famed designer Marvin Israel and photographer Diane Arbus traveled to Minneapolis to install the show, tranforming the pillared institution with black and silver paint within the featured galleries. As Ted later told me, this trio of friends toured the “seedier” parts of the city in a black limosine, giving out sought-after invitations to the private black-tie opening for the show. The contact sheets from Ted’s photographs documenting that night’s gala tell the story – the wildest mixed with the museum trustees – a very colorful event. Before heading to Arizona for graduate school I got up the nerve to call and make an appointment to meet Ted, telling him what my plan was and that it was hot in the summers there… might I come home and intern at the museum in exchange for college credit? to which he replied “We’re working on an NEA Publications Grant right now – why don’t we put your name in as a Research Assistant so that if we get the grant, you get a job!” They got the grant, and I scored a job in the department during summer/winter academic breaks. Perfect! I swear it was so exciting going through those doors of the museum to work. My task was to contact the photographers in the collection and update their files towards what was to become “The Making Of A Collection: Photographs From The Minneapolis Institute of Arts” (Aperture, 1984). Those were my ‘formative’ years, gaining real insights into what constituted a body of work, how to consider and talk about photography. Amazingly, Ted let me organize an exhibition of photographs from the MIA collection representing the period 1950-present and travel it to Northlight Gallery at ASU (coinciding with Professor Bill Jay‘s general photohistory seminar period for that last semester of my studies), the catalogue for which became my thesis project, published as an issue of Northlight Magazine. Ted honored me by keeping the exhibition intact and touring it within the midwest for a number of years. It was during this period that I met so many artists, curators, collectors, photo historians and more, not the least of whom was Ansel Adams; MIA had purchased a museum set and the Photographs Council brought Ansel to Minneapolis to give a public lecture in conjuction with that acquisition and exhibition. (Little did I know then, but Ansel was to become my next mentor.)
Ted was not just my first boss in the industry, but I count him as one of my best teachers. I spoke to that within this foreword I wrote entitled “INFLUENCE and INSPIRATION” for the book “Teaching Photography: Tools for the Imaging Educator” (Glenn Rand and Richard Zakia, Focal Press, 2006):
“Our responsibility as teachers and mentors is a serious one, particularly for students who demonstrate sincere interest in professional growth and who seek tutelage. I am fortunate to have been mentored by respected members of our industry, and in turn, to mentor emerging professionals. Carroll T. Hartwell, Curator of Photography, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and later Janet Borden, then Director of the Robert Freidus Gallery in NYC, both helped me understand the full arc of an artist’s career, and the important role curators and gallerists play within this cycle. I strive to provide my interns and students with a professional, well-rounded orientation to our profession and the important roles they can perform as they mature. I urge everyone to bring a sincere commitment to your function in education, remembering those who helped you learn and grow through your life. If an internship program placing your students with professionals does not exist, establish one. Whether they ultimately make their living with cameras or with photographs, this window on professional life in our field will serve your students and program well. ”
Ted developed a real love for documentary photography and photojournalism, heralding the work of Lewis Hine to Jerome Liebling, to Gilles Peress and other Magnum photographers, whom he came to know as the Agency was approaching it’s 40th anniversary and I was planning for books and exhibitions that Ted became involved with. In the past 30+ years Ted had given many midwest photographers their first museum exhibitions. Ted was an early advocate of the computer as a learning tool in museum galleries, and I encourage you to view the departments “Get The Picture” on-line learning component here, and don’t miss the related resources compiled on each featured photographer; additionally, I know you will enjoy the PHOTOGRAPHS section on MIA’s website – click here to view over 4000 images representing the work of over 500 images; it has an “add to my collection” feature for the dreamer in all of us.
In 2003, Ted organized an exhibition honoring the life and work of Werner Bischof, and Minnesota Public Radio did a piece on the show; to read/listen to the piece, click here. It’s ‘classic’ Ted speaking about the value of learning about world history through learning about the life of a photographer, and the value of the CD-Rom as an engaging teaching tool. Don’t miss listening to this piece.
Currently on view in the department is a two-part exhibition celebrating the gifts to the collection of Frederick B. Scheel, entitled “The Search To See.” demonstrating yet again the relationships Ted established with the community and the resulting donations to the collection.
Ted had recently finished selecting work for was a major exhibition and book project on the Minnesota images of Thomas Frederick Arndt, a project I hope will still be mounted at the at the MIA. (You can view 217 images of Tom’s photographs on that link to the MIA Photography Department website).
In 2005 the department’s associate curator Christian Peterson mounted an exhibition entitled “Fabulous Photographic Ephemera” that celebrated the history of our field, but also, the history of the department, putting on view many archive objects and significant correspondence from its then 30+ years. Another wonderful MPR piece can be read/heard here. I hope many of you had the chance to see Christian’s interesting exhibition and congratulate Ted for all he had done for photography in our home town, and beyond. He changed my life for good back in 1970, I can tell you that.
This has been a tough week, made a tiny bit easier by, as Stuart Klipper wrote me this morning, “the circling of the wagons” of old friends. No more mentors are allowed to leave. Not yet. I’m still learning from you.
And, last but not least, as with my remembrance of John Szarkowski from yesterday, photographer Keri Pickett has posted an image of Ted here, looking so happy, surrounded by his beloved books and prints. ©2005 Keri Pickett
And, today 7/22/07, the Minneapolis StarTribune featured a tribute to Ted; click here to read the article by Mary Abbe.