May 17, 2007

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Stieglitz in Manchester
Photo fan donates priceless collection of rare photography books to NHIA
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

New Hampshire photographer and filmmaker Gary Sampson admitted he was practically drooling when he visited John Teti’s studio last year where Teti kept a collection of rare photography books dating back to the 1800s. Rick Strawbridge, trustee chair of the New Hampshire Institute of Art, called the collection a “national treasure.”

On Thursday, May 10, the NHIA unveiled a new special collections room in Fuller Hall on Hanover Street that will house these books.

The donation is valued at $1.5 million, although Institute members called it priceless.

“My primary interest was enriching the students here,” said Teti, who noted that he was impressed with the direction of the school under Strawbridge, photography department chair Sampson and the Institute’s president, Roger Williams. And while the library will benefit a wider audience now, it’s still not far away from Teti’s Lightson Studio in Sutton.

“I found a unique, creative spirit here” at NHIA, Teti said. Sampson and library director Katherine Ritter are so steeped in the history of photography that they will make good use of the rare book collection, Teti said.

Teti began collecting in 1998, when he saw an ad by rare book dealer Andrew Cahan in the back of a photography magazine. He ordered a few items, and then decided to work with Cahan to build a library. The selection was quite planned, Cahan said.

Until the 1970s photographers couldn’t make a living by putting photos “on walls” but they could with books. Teti started collecting influential books that show the evolution of photography.

The two collected Victorian-era works, including a complete series from 1903 to 1917 of Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work, a periodical that promoted photography as a fine art form. There are older works, including an 1864 book with pictures of “The Last Men of the Revolution.” There’s an 1868 copy of “The Yosemite Book,” an important travel book. Teti has also distilled his contemporary photography books for the collection, Cahan said. Sampson pointed out that Cahan helped Teti find the best examples in the best condition, hich means students will see the truest examples of what early photography leaders discussed.

Teti said that in his mid 20s he was able to spend time with great photographers such as Andre Kertesz, Paul Caponigro, George Tice, George Krauss and Arnold Newman, and he developed a desire to learn more about the subject.

Teti and Strawbridge became friends after they met at a photography workshop in Maine, and Teti has become a friend of the college since then. His company, LaFrance Corp. of Pennsylvania, made a donation that enabled NHIA to open its first digital photography lab.

The Teti collection will attract photography scholars to Manchester and will enhance NHIA’s photography, art history and liberal arts programs, say leaders at the school. Cahan called Teti the most generous person he’d ever met. Manchester’s Mayor Guinta said that this is a gift not just to the school but also to the city.

Manchester architectural firm Dennis Mires, P.A., outfitted the new climate-controlled room with U.V. protection and acid-free shelving. Staff will be available to assist visitors with use of the collection. .




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