Famous Faces: Picturing Celebrity in the Photographic Archives

When Jun 13, 2013 08:00 AM to
Sep 27, 2013 05:00 PM
Where Photographic Archives Gallery, Lower Level, Ekstrom Library
Contact Name
Contact Phone (502) 852-6752
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Within its collection of approximately two million images spanning over 170 years of photography, the University of Louisville Photographic Archives holds numerous images of celebrities. This exhibit showcases a selection of these photographs displaying actors, politicians, musicians, athletes, artists, and other prominent people throughout history.

Not long after photography was introduced to the public in 1839, photographers began pointing their cameras at celebrities of the day. With the understanding that it would enhance the reputations of both photographer and sitter, European royalty, American politicians, actors, and authors sat for highly regarded studio photographers. By the 1860s the “carte craze” had taken over and the public began collecting widely published carte-de-visite photographs of Civil War generals, presidents, and stage stars, including notable circus performers and sideshow celebrities.

Society’s fascination with the famous has swelled as photography has continued to provide desired intimacy to the public, as well as a device for shaping identity and image to the star. Celebrity photography has grown steadily since the early days of the medium and today fame and photography are inextricably linked.

This exhibit features a selection of celebrated nineteenth and twentieth-century personalities, generally arranged by type of notoriety. Local star Muhammad Ali is included as well as a shot of Elvis Presley performing in Louisville months before the release of his debut album. Historic icons Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa, and Albert Einstein are presented, along with a shot of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at the 1964 March on Frankfort. The namesake of Louisville’s original candy, “The Modjeska” appears, in addition to Salvador Dalí, Marilyn Monroe, Frida Kahlo, and many more.

Cassius Clay

Cassius Clay, March 18, 1963, by Lin Caufield. LC_ 0526.


Marilyn Monroe at the Drive-In, 1952, by Philippe Halsman

Marilyn Monroe at the Drive-In, 1952, by Philippe Halsman.