What's New - 2022
Ever since Jim McQuaid began ranking photographers by number of collections reporting owning examples of their work, Ansel Adams has topped the lists. In "Index to American Photographic Collections" (GK Hall, 1982) McQuaid first provided Tables comparing photographer rankings from his 1973 collections survey (Photography: Source and Resource) to the expanded survey roughly 10 years later.
The 1973 rankings were based on 100 collections - all American. Ansel Adams was reported by 37; Edward Weston 34; Minor White 25. The 1982 survey included 400 collections - again all American. Adams still first with 93 (or now fewer than 1/4 of collections surveyed - compared with just over 1/3 previously). Edward Weston still ranked second with 83. Walker Evans seemingly out of nowhere jumps to third with 73.
With grant support from National Endowment for the Humanities, a third collections survey was conducted at George Eastman House and once again published as a reference volume by GK Hall in 1990. Though edited by Andrew Eskind and Greg Drake, McQuaid again provided statistical observations including rankings of 100 most collected photographers. Now, 535 collections are included and again
the late Ansel Adams (1902-1984) leads reported by 134 - exactly 1/4 of the collections. Weston (1886-1958) follows with 118; Walker Evans (1903-1975) again ranked third with 116.
The next benchmark arrived with the 1995 edition of the GK Hall reference publication - still American collections only - however, the 535 collections totalling 32,465 photographers have now jumped to 582 collections and 66,830 photographers. The top 2 remain the same: Adams and Weston (147 and 125 collections respectively). Third place, however, tied with 124 collections each, are Edward Curtis, Walker Evans, and William Henry Jackson
By the late 1990s, the market for reference works in print editions was shrinking as online access to all kinds of information began to take off. The final GK Hall print edition published in 1998 had grown to 3 volumes. It was now known as "International Photography: George Eastman House Index to Photographers, Collections, and Exhibitions". Not only had the survey become international, an NEH grant supported the creation of exhibition records linked both to the participating
photographers and to the sponsoring museum venues. In three volumes totalling over 2000 pages, the 1998 edition paved the way for online access just as internet technologies were rapidly developing. 70 international collections from 20 countries brought over 12,000 additional photographers over the 1995 total. Adams prevailed as most widely held though jumping from 147 to 152 collections. William Henry Jackson and Edward Weston tied for second with 131 collections (up from 125). The 5,650 exhibitions collated included 33 photographers listed in over 50 exhibits each.
Jumping to the lead as most exhibited photographer was Alexander Keighley (1861-1947) with 146 - a position he retains today with 183. Keighley's near contemporary Alfred Stieglitz trails closely with 166 exhibit citations.
Today Adams retains his position as most collected - even among museums internationally. At 237 collections, he's still in just over one out of four collections followed once again by Edward Weston in 212 collections. Interestingly, at third today is Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) with holdings in 198 collections.
Top 200 Museum Collected Photographers - with tooltips
Top 200 Museum Collected Photographers - bar chart
Andrew Eskind (February 2022)
Is it possible, or useful to compare the collections we survey by the uniqueness of their population of photographers?
In the graph below each triangle represents a collection. Hovering over any triangle displays the name and location of the collection as well as the coordinates the triangle represents on the graph. The first number in the coordinate is the number of photographers we currently list for that collection. Thus, its position on the X axis. The second position (or Y axis) is a bit trickier.
To get that number we have tallied the number of collections for each photographer in that collection and divided the total by the count of photographer. Consider it the average number of collections per photographer. Imagine a collection with 2 photographers - Ansel Adams and Andrew Eskind. Adams is currently held in 224 collections while my work is only in 1. The average for such a collection would be 112. Collections with the largest number of photographers will tend to have lover averages (more unique). Collections with fewer photographers, but focusing on better known/widely collected photographers will have higher averages (less unique). What patterns emerge. Feel free to comment.
Collections graphed by uniqueness of the photographers they collect
Andrew Eskind (January 2022)