The Hood Museum of Art recently received a major gift of contemporary photography from Nancy and Thomas F. O'Neil III, a Dartmouth alumnus from the Class of 1979. This outstanding group of thirty-nine photographs by seventeen photographers substantially enhances the museum's growing collection of recent photography, a flourishing medium for creative expression and social activism across the globe. Reflecting trends in late twentieth-century and early twenty-first–century photography, including large-scale color work and the emerging field of environmental aerial imagery, the gift also presents traditional genres, such as portraiture, with non-traditional subjects, such as circus performers, refugees from civil wars, and adolescent students.
Featuring the work of internationally recognized photographers—including Guggenheim Fellowship recipients and the winner of a MacArthur Fellow award—as well as those who have more recently come into prominence, the O'Neil collection encompasses a range of subject matter and themes that will enhance the Hood's teaching across academic departments and the curriculum. The images touch on topics as varied as controlled fires on farmland in the American Midwest, manufacturing in Europe and China, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and small mountain communities in the American West. Other works examine identity in relationship to place and history and include portraits of members of the embattled Karen minority of Myanmar in Southeast Asia, an Afghan from a refugee community in Pakistan, and descendants of Africans who were brought to Latin America in slavery. Still others deal with modern-day consumerism, photography and scientific experimentation, and monumental architecture. The gift contains superb examples of various genres in both black-and-white and color photography, including portraiture, landscape, still life, and photography with strong documentary roots.
Tom and Nancy O'Neil have been collecting contemporary photography for over two decades, often developing substantial holdings of works by individual artists. They have cultivated a personal collection—driven by their responses to the visions of particular artists—that features works as diverse as David Goldes's cool, scientifically inclined Water Balance and Brian Ulrich's colorful documentary-style photograph of a teenager trying on shoes in Edinburgh, Scotland. A significant facet of this gift is a group of six works by the award-winning Canadian photographer Ed Burtynsky. "The Hood is a preeminent teaching institution and one of the Dartmouth community's greatest assets," the O'Neils observed. "We are excited that works by these exceptional artists will now enrich the Dartmouth curriculum. Hopefully, they will nurture disruptive interdisciplinary scholarship that considers these important topics of our time."