October 29, 2011–February 5, 2012
Galleries 3–4


Beyond their capacity to preserve and evoke memories, snapshots of celebrations, vacations, and gatherings of family and friends are accumulated with the aim of constructing a personal history and preserving it for future generations. When these photographs are discarded or displaced—becoming anonymous—they are transformed into cultural artifacts that collectively trace a history of private image making and evolving habits of self-presentation before the camera.

The snapshots presented here are such artifacts, presumably taken by nonprofessionals and saved for a time. Disowned and scattered, they were plucked from flea markets, shops, and galleries by New York collector Peter J. Cohen. Noticing the frequency of photographs featuring trios of women, he named the group after the Three Graces, an iconic motif in Western art.

Unknown photographer. Untitled (detail), c. 1930s. Gift of Peter J. Cohen.