Arts & culture, Visual arts

Library exhibit brings the West into focus, one portrait at a time

By Tor Haugan

people in a library gallery with photos on the wall

Visitors browse the Facing West portrait exhibit in the Bancroft Gallery. (UC Berkeley Library photo by Jami Smith)

Decking the walls are faces — some are familiar, others less so. But one by one, they help tell the story of the West.

On April 1, the Bancroft Library opened its doors to the second installment of its exhibition of photographic portraits, Facing West: Camera Portraits from the Bancroft Collection. Facing West 2 highlights some of the people and communities that make the West, the West. (Think Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton, writer Alice B. Toklas and Beat icon Allen Ginsberg, among others.)

For the second part of the show, the curators changed out 70 photos — about half of the pieces in the exhibit — adding a batch of fresh faces and ensuring those who visited the first part of the show, which opened in November, will have plenty of new images to explore.

New additions include one-of-a-kind daguerreotypes and a carte-de-visite album featuring the very first graduating class from UC Berkeley, in 1873. Curatorial assistant Christine Hult-Lewis, who put the show together with Bancroft pictorial curator Jack von Euw, counts two photos as highlights of the exhibit: Edward Curtis’ sensitive portrait of a California Pomo girl from the 1920s and a vibrant 21st-century photograph of a Yurok elder and his family by Ira Nowinski.

“We are excited to share different images from our archives whose stories are just as compelling as those in the first iteration of the show,” Hult-Lewis said.

Read more about Facing West.