Through a commission from the CCA, three contemporary photographers spent six years interpreting the work of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903), North America’s most important landscape architect. Viewing Olmsted: Photographs by Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander, and Geoffrey James presents 155 photographs from this commission to offer visitors an opportunity to understand Olmsted’s achievement visually through an unprecedented range of photographic evidence.

By giving the photographers the opportunity to visit the sites many times in different seasons, or in the same season several years later, the CCA Olmsted commission sought to create an intense concentration on place. The seventy-four representative sites in the project were selected by Olmsted scholar Cynthia Zaitzevsky, who provided documentation to the photographers on each location. The photographers brought sharply different approaches to the commission. Robert Burley created chromogenic colour prints, using a 4 × 5 view camera. Lee Friedlander worked in black and white, using a Leica, a 2¼” square Hasselblad, and a panoramic camera. Geoffrey James also worked in black and white, using an 8 × 10 view camera and a panoramic camera. The photographers’ personal visions and their ideas about Olmsted were equally distinct, evolving gradually over the course of the commission. Upon its completion, 936 photographs were chosen to become part of a permanent archive at the CCA.

Viewing Olmsted is the third in the exhibition series The American Century, which seeks to cast a fresh eye on critical aspects of modern America’s architectural culture—its promises and disappointments, its roots and offshoots, its unparalleled worldwide impact.

Curator: David Harris, CCA.

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