Call me old school. Go ahead, it’s true. I love seeing photographs in galleries. Not the galleries confined to a computer. I’m talking about the ones with walls.
There’s just something magical about stepping into a gallery and approaching large photographs hanging around you. It’s like meeting a kindred spirit for the first time; by standing face-to-face, you have a chance to savor their subtle nuances, to get lost in the rich hues of their eyes. Above all, you feel comfortable exploring, discovering and learning.
Sometimes, my palms sweat as I walk into a favorite gallery and glimpse a new exhibit. Rounding the corner of Canal and Chartres in New Orleans, I instinctively look up, toward the worn wooden sign and bold red door marking the entrance to A Gallery for Fine Photography. It was the first real photography gallery I visited, when I was a high school student discovering my passion for photojournalism. When I’m in New Orleans, A Gallery is my first stop. The space always draws me in, like the magnetic force of first love.
When I view photographs in a gallery, I don’t just see them. I experience them. It’s like full immersion in another culture, and it can’t be matched by a computer.
For years, I’ve been visiting galleries, cataloging my favorites. Here are my must-see galleries for photographers. I hope you’ll have a chance to stop by each of them and get lost for awhile. Please share your favorite galleries in the comments section. I look forward to finding some new places to visit!
1. A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans, LA
Located in a 19th-century building at 241 Chartres in New Orleans’ French Quarter, A Gallery houses a dazzling collection of historic photographs spanning the 19th and 20th centuries. Set up like a living room, or informal Parisian Salon, the gallery immediately makes visitors feel at ease. Poke around, walk upstairs, and stare at images of Ernest Hemingway and Louis Armstrong. The singular vision and unforgettable personality of gallery owner, Joshua Mann Pailet, are evident around every corner. That’s precisely why this space feels like home to me.
2. Monroe Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
Located just off the historic city center, The Plaza, the Monroe Gallery specializes in classic black-and-white photography with an emphasis on humanist and photojournalist imagery. From Robert Capa’s pioneering photojournalism to Joe McNally’s contemporary coverage of New York city firefighters, the Monroe gallery is a living, breathing archive of photojournalism. Plus, the owners are casual, friendly and willing to strike up a conversation about their passion for photography.
3. Polka Galerie, Paris, France
The Polka Galerie is located in my favorite Parisian neighborhood, The Marais, and is actually part of three outlets dedicated to photography. The physical space is supplemented by a beautiful, quarterly magazine and a website showcasing exhibits. The founder and owner of Polka is Alain Genestar, former editor-in-chief of Paris Match, which is one of the most powerful weekly magazines in France and is renowed for its use of photographs.
4. Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
Formerly a photographer and founder of The Center for Photography in Woodstock in 1977, Howard Greenberg is one of a small group of gallerists, curators and historians responsible for the creation and development of the modern market for photography. The Howard Greenberg Gallery, which was founded in 1981, was the first to consistently exhibit photojournalism and ‘street’ photography, which are now accepted as important components of photographic art.
5. International Center for Photography, New York, NY
Nestled in the heart of New York City, the International Center of Photography is dedicated to exploring the photographic medium through dynamic exhibitions of historical and contemporary work. More than a gallery, ICP is a haven for education and scholarship. ICP also holds the famed “Mexican Suitcase,” which comprises a rare collection of rediscovered Spanish Civil War negatives by Capa, Chim, and Taro.
6. The George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
The world-renknowed George Eastman House combines the world’s leading collections of photography and film with the stately style of the Colonial Revival mansion that George Eastman called home from 1905 to 1932. This is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the world’s oldest film archives, which originally opened to the public in 1949.
7. Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
The Fahey/Klein Gallery is devoted to the enhancement of the public’s appreciation of photography through the exhibition and sale of 20th Century and Contemporary Fine Art Photography. Since the gallery’s inception, exhibitions have embraced a diverse range photographers from Edward Weston to Berenice Abbott; Man Ray to Henri Cartier-Bresson.
8. Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA
Founded in 1980, the Robert Klein Gallery is devoted exclusively to fine art photography. The gallery deals with established photographers of the 19th and 20th centuries including those who are considered masters such as: Muybridge, Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Irving Penn, Brassai, Cartier Bresson, Helen Levitt, Yousuf Karsh, Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston and Walker Evans. The exhibition schedule is also designed to introduce new photographers to the public. Recently exhibited contemporary artists include: Julie Blackmon, Bill Jacobson, Jeff Brouws, Cig Harvey, Laura Letinsky, Wendy Burton and Chip Hooper.
9. Photo Eye Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
If you’re into collecting photo books, especially rare and out-of-print volumes, don’t miss Photo Eye! Simply put, it’s a treasure trove of photo books. You’ll be consistently surprised every time you step into this gallery a few blocks off Canyon Road. Dealing in contemporary photography, the gallery represents both internationally renowned and emerging artists.
10. Peter Fetterman, Santa Monica, CA
Peter Fetterman set up his first gallery over 20 years ago. He was a pioneer tenant of Bergamot Station, the Santa Monica Center of the Arts, when it opened in 1994. His gallery has one of the largest inventories of classic 20th Century photography. Diverse holdings include work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastião Salgado, Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro, Willy Ronis, and André Kerstez. Peter and his colleagues are committed to promote awareness and appreciation of photography in an intimate, user-friendly environment.