“Thanks to the insight, vision and generosity of one man—David Davis—who lived through those eventful years, a fabulous collection of memorable photographs of America’s turbulent 1960s and 1970s is on view at the Worcester Art Museum (WAM). Showcasing 85 of the most powerful American photographs ever made, ‘Kennedy to Kent State: Images of a Generation’ features depictions of shocking assassinations, the Vietnam War, antiwar protests, the Civil Rights movement, a growing counterculture and wonders of space exploration. It is on view through February 3.
“Organized by David Acton, WAM’s curator of prints, drawings and photographs, and his assistant, Nancy Kathryn Burns, both of whom contributed to the useful catalog, the exhibition offers searing glimpses into trying times. The photographs continue to pack a wallop with viewers of all ages, as donor Davis hoped.
“The pictures were originally collected by Davis, then a Provincetown art gallery owner, to recall and reflect his teenage through college years. When he started the collection, Davis says, he had no inkling that it would grow so large or be worthy of a major museum exhibition. ‘I had no idea of what I would learn about a troubled, yet exciting period of this country's past, and also about myself,’ he recalls.
“Starting in 2000, Davis devoted a decade to tracking down period-significant prints, a task complicated by the fact that large magazine and newspaper publishers were digitizing their file photographs and discarding or giving originals away. As the trove grew, Davis says that ‘rather than a personal collection… I decided to share the photos in the form of a larger group. I wanted the potential viewer to glimpse the period… [of] coming of age… an experience of adolescence that took place amidst the mayhem of a rapidly changing society.’”