Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection

Real to Real

Roe Etheridge, Thanksgiving 1984 (Green Dress), 2009. Chromogenic print. 44 x 33 in. (111.8 x 83.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery

de Young Museum
June 9 to September 16, 2012

Contemporary expectations for the photographic arts have changed, as our understanding of the culture in which we live—our reality—has changed.

Kevin Moore
San Francisco, CA, April 2012—Opening June 9, 2012 at the de Young Museum and drawing upon the dynamic collection of San Francisco native Trevor Traina, Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection features approximately 110 photographs made by some of the pre-eminent artists working in photography this past century. Mixing rare black-and-white vintage prints of classic images by Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand with luscious, eye-popping works in color by artists ranging from Stephen Shore and William Eggleston to Cindy Sherman, Alec Soth, and Andreas Gursky, Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection celebrates photography’s fundamental richness and plasticity. 
Curated by art historian Kevin Moore, who also served as an advisor to Mr. Traina on the collection, and Founding Curator of Photography/Chief Administrative Curator at the Fine Arts Museums Julian Cox, Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection examines different historical understandings of Realism and its changing definitions over time. It demonstrates photography’s singular, unbreakable connection to the real world, which remains part of its undeniable allure. Cox states, “It was Alfred Stieglitz who, a century ago, campaigned in support of photography’s expressive possibilities independent from other visual arts, because he believed the medium to be endowed with what he described as “a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”  
For the committed, creative collector, photography is a vanguard medium that provides myriad possibilities to understand our lives through the power of images. Notes Cox, “The Traina collection includes many images that sit firmly within the tradition of photography as a craft and a vocation, alongside those made by artists who consider photography as just one medium among others from which they can select to communicate an idea. This use of photography within conceptual art has been at the center of Traina’s most recent activity as a collector, and it brings the exhibition fully into the contemporary moment with exciting work by artists such as Jeff Wall, Roe Etheridge, Anne Collier, Alec Soth, and Christopher Williams. We are delighted to be sharing such a diverse array of contemporary photographic practice with our public.”  
Photography’s ever shifting status as an art form is full of twists and turns, and there have never been so many creative talents involved in the medium as there are today. “Contemporary photographs”, remarks Moore, “are tricky concoctions… Particularly today, in an ultra-mediated culture of tepid Facebook friendships and corporate propaganda and political spin and industrially manufactured foods, the desire to cut through the layers separating us from the real is more urgent then ever. Photography has no claim on the real and never did, except insofar as we insist, that we see our version of the real in it.” While the core of the Traina collection embraces the documentary impulse in photography, it also tracks the medium’s full-blooded absorption into the world of contemporary art.  
Presented in four thematic sections, Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection delves into the richness and depth of the Traina collection, positing a playfully unexpected view of the history of photography from the 1950s to the present. 
 “A photograph is a slippery, ambiguous social construct,” Cox comments, “and it can convey much more than the story it may seem to tell. The Traina collection traffics in this inbuilt ambiguity and unleashes the viewer on a visual and sensory odyssey that has no fixed result.” Presenting very different perspectives and voices, Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection offers visitors the unique opportunity to experience the dynamic and expressive nature of this privately held collection.

Public Program 

Playing the Field: Photography and Collecting Today
Friday June 8, 2012
5.00pm –­­ 6.30 pm 
de Young Museum, Koret Auditorium
Discussion with Real to Real Curators and Artists:
  • Julian Cox, curator, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
  • Kevin Moore, art historian and advisor for the Traina Collection  
  • Daniel Lefcourt, artist
  • Alec Soth, artist


The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has published an accompanying book for the Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection exhibition. Featuring over 85 plates, the 135-page book includes a foreword and introduction by Julian Cox, Founding Curator of Photography/ Chief Administrative Curator at the Fine Arts Museums, as well as an essay by Kevin Moore, art historian.

Exhibition Organization

The exhibition Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.