MoCP at 40 Celebrates Impressive Photography Collection

The Museum of Contemporary Photography celebrates 40th anniversary with MoCP at 40.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) is celebrating their 40th anniversary by showcasing their vast collection of photographic art in the exhibition MoCP at 40. MoCP is housed on the first floor of 600 S. Michigan Ave. and the exhibition continues through April 10.

MoCP at 40 highlights canonical photographic work along with lesser-known emerging artists’ work. The art on the main showroom is displayed from end to end and from floor to ceiling. The exhibition only represents a small fraction of the 14,000 art objects that comprise MoCP’s permanent collection.

For Executive Director Natasha Egan (MA ‘98, MFA ’98), the exhibition is both curatorial and personal. Egan has a 21-year history with Columbia College Chicago. A few years after graduating from both the Museum Studies and Photography programs in 1998, she served as MoCP Associate Director and Curator for more than 11 years before becoming the Executive Director in 2011. “Walking through the exhibit feels like walking down memory lane,” says Egan.

Photographs by Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Alfred Stieglitz hang alongside work by Dionisio Gonzalez, Carrie Shneider and Kohei Yoshiyuki. MoCP is proud to have a long history of catapulting artists into national and international attention. Now renowned photographers Alec Soth, Vera Lutter, Michael Wolf, and Barbara Probst all exhibited work at MoCP early in their careers.

As one of only two photography museums accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, MoCP serves as a major voice in the national and international conversation about contemporary photography. “Besides being a valuable resource, the MoCP is like a small think-tank that larger institutions look to,” says Egan.

She also sees the MoCP as a vital part of the Columbia College educational experience, “much like an on-campus library.”

Besides offering tours, docent-guided lectures and online resources, the MoCP offers on-site print viewings for classes, groups and individuals interested in viewing work on a particular theme, artist or time period. Many departments across campus (and beyond) have taken advantage of these print viewings to enhance certain aspects of their curriculum. The Creative Arts Therapy Department used these viewings to expand their understanding of how to “read” body language; the Cultural Studies Department examined gender and race in photography; and a law class from the University of Chicago focused on the ethics of art representation.

At 40, MoCP’s collection continues to grow but Egan is not tempted by increasing the size of the museum space. “Our size keeps us nimble. It’s important that we can be flexible and respond to contemporary artists. After all, it’s the artists that dictate the future,” she says.

MoCP is free and open to the public. MoCP at 40 is on view through April 10. 

MoCP at 40 Trailer from MoCP, Columbia College Chicago on Vimeo.