Current Exhibition:
20th Century Salon Photography
A Tribute

September 4, 2014 - November 29, 2014

Hours: Tues - Sat 11–5:30 pm & by appointment
First Thursdays of the month open until 7:30pm

Contact:   415-781-1122   •
49 Geary Street • Suite 410 • San Francisco, CA 94108

View photographs from our inventory by clicking on these galleries:

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20th Century Salon Photography: A Tribute

Before photography was shown in galleries or collected by museums
there was the Photographic Salon

September 4, 2014 - November 29, 2014

View a Slideshow of Selected Photographs from the Exhibition
Click on the first image, then use the arrows below to scroll through.

Titles & Pricing

Robert Tat Gallery presents a tribute to the photographic salons of the 20th century, highlighting their importance to the acceptance of photography as a serious art form.

Prior to the 1970s, photography was rarely shown in galleries or collected by museums. The primary means for photographers to exhibit their work was the Photographic Salon. Camera clubs worldwide sponsored these annual exhibitions, and invited members of other clubs to submit works for consideration and to be entered in the judging competition.
The salons played an important role in building the art. They paved the way for full acknowledgement of photographic art, inclusion of photographs in museum collections, and development of the commercial market in galleries and at auction.

The Salon exhibitions during the first half of the 20th century were particularly rich, featuring the works of many photographers who later became well known. Names such as Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Ruth Bernhard and Edward Weston (to name just a few) are to be found in salon catalogues along side those of lesser-known photographers of the day.
Today, the term Salon Photographers refers to those lesser-known photographers. While often overlooked, their works are frequently beautifully composed and crafted, with an aesthetic and print quality rivaling that of the celebrated artists of the day. Many were skilled amateurs or commercial professionals doing their own work on the side. All that is missing is a recognizable name.

As major-name vintage works become more rare and inaccessible, many collectors are beginning to appreciate this largely under-acknowledged body of work. Many significant photography collections now include Salon Photographs to lend depth and variety to the collection. And since these photographs are more reasonably priced than works by better-known artists, they have excellent appreciation potential. 

The exhibition features works by:
Jose Alemany, Fred Archer, Karl Baumgaertel, Ruth Bernhard, Imogen Cunningham, Floyd Evans, Johan Hagemeyer, Fan Ho, George Hoxie, Mitchel Obrimski, Nata Piaskowski,
William Rittase, William Simpson, others.

• • •

Below is an example of a typical backside of Salon photograph, displaying
labels from each Salon where the particular print was exhibited:

ROBERT TAT GALLERY sells photographic images of all types. Our inventory includes:
- Vintage and later photographs of the master photographers, from the 19th to the 21st centuries;
- Camera Work gravures and Pictorialist works from the early 20th century;
- Modernist abstract works;
- Lesser-known mid-century artists;
- Vernacular and Found Images by unknown photographers;
- Contemporary works;
- Male imagery, including classic physique photographs and affectionate men;
- San Francisco historical material.

Robert Tat has a special interest in 20th century European and American Modernism. This includes classic modernism (photographs made between the two World Wars), and extends to a broader range of work influenced by the modernist school. It also encompasses 19th century photographs that anticipate modernism, vernacular and other anonymous works with a modernist sensibility, and contemporary works.

ROBERT TAT GALLERY is located in San Francisco's premiere gallery building at 49 Geary Street, Suite 410, near Union Square. The Gallery is open Tuesday - Saturday 11:00 AM - 5:30 PM. For further information, please call 415-781-1122. We also frequently exhibit at art fairs.

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We are always looking for fine photographs to purchase or consign. If you have photographs you would like to sell, please contact us.

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If you are looking for a particular photographic image, works by a specific photographer or a certain style of photograph, please contact us with your request. If we don't have it in inventory we'll be pleased to search for you. We have resources for photographic material all over the world.

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What is a Salon photograph?
Numerous camera clubs around the world sponsor regular exhibitions, called salons, where members of other clubs compete to show work. The salons during the first half of the 20th century were particularly rich, featuring the work of many artists who later became famous. We take a special interest in the the works of lesser known salon photographers, often serious amateurs or commercial professionals doing their own work on the side. Their photographs are frequently beautifully composed and crafted, with an aesthetic and print quality rivaling that of the celebrated artists of the day. Many collectors appreciate salon work for these reasons -- and because it is more reasonably priced than works by better known artists. Salon prints may bear exhibition labels or stamps on the reverse of the photograph's mount, indicating awards or other participation in various salons.

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What is a Vernacular photograph?
The term "vernacular" literally means "of the commonplace." In photography collecting, it refers to photographs which were made without artistic intent. This includes commercial photographs, personal snapshots and albums, historical images, scientific photographs, etc. Many collectors find vernacular images interesting, both for subject matter and for the occasional image that has an aesthetic appeal, albeit unintentional.

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What is a Found Image?
Our Found Images are specially selected snapshots screened with the same criteria as a fine art photograph: artistic appeal, engaging or emotional subject matter, and print quality. We search through about 1000 pieces to find one "gem in the rough" that meets our standards. There is growing interest in collecting snapshots and a new appreciation of them as art, with several fine arts museums mounting exhibitions during the past few years. Found Images from Robert Tat's collection were exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1998 as part of their "Snapshots: The Photography of Everyday Life" show.

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