Dorothea Lange (American, 1895–1965), “Squatters’ camp on highway. Characters in scene from Resettlement film. Near Bakersfield, Calif.” 1935 Vintage gelatin silver print, 7⅜ × 9⅝ inches Image courtesy of Colby College

The Colby College Museum of Art has received a gift of more than 500 photographs from the collection of alumni Dr. William Tsiaras and Nancy Meyer Tsiaras, expanding the museum’s photography holdings.

The collection features prints by Berenice Abbott, Edward Steichen and Dorothea Lange, as well as works by Cuban photographers Pedro Abascal, Arien Chang, Alejandro González and Lissette Solórzano. The collection also includes works by Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, artists who were both patients of Bill Tsiaras, a Providence-based ophthalmologist and medical professor. David Vestal, Joe Deal and Lucas Samaras, as well as Tsiaras’ brothers, the artists Philip and Alexander, are represented in the collection.

Ansel Adams (American, 1902–1984), “Untitled (Glacier Point from Stoneman Meadow Orchard, Winter, Yosemite National Park),” n.d. Vintage gelatin silver print, 6¼ × 3⅞ inches Image courtesy of Colby College

The collection spans time and place, from Robert Capa’s war photographs to Margaret Bourke-White’s factory workers and Pedro Abascal’s Habana street scenes. There are landscapes of the American West by Ansel Adams and images of nuclear test sites in New Mexico and Nevada by Barbara Norfleet. Colby would not assign a monetary value to the gift.

Highlights of the gift are included in a new catalog, “Act of Sight: The Tsiaras Family Photography Collection,” released by the Colby museum. An exhibition of the photographs is planned for 2022.

“This remarkable gift from Bill and Nancy Tsiaras allows the Colby Museum and its audiences to fully engage with photography, which has been critical to the development of art, and American culture in particular, since its inception in the 19th century,” Jacqueline Terrassa, director of the Colby museum, said in a news release. “The range and exceptional quality of this collection is in itself invaluable within the interdisciplinary environment of Colby. The story of how it grew over time – largely through direct interaction with some of the medium’s leading and lesser-known practitioners – is also a wonderful testament to the power of curiosity and the belief that close looking is a valuable means to learn.”

In a statement, Bill Tsiaras credited the Colby museum for providing formative and influential experiences while he and his wife were students there. “We hope the collection inspires, stimulates, intrigues, challenges, and provides material for discussion, debate, understanding, and, ultimately, intellectual growth to the students of Colby for generations to come,” he said in the release.

Bill and Nancy Tsiaras made an initial gift to Colby in 2003, forming the foundation of the museum’s photography collection, which has grown since. Bill Tsiaras, now an emeritus member of the Museum Board of Governors, served on the board from 1998 to 2015, including as board chair and chair of the collections committee.


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