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Looking back, facing forward

“Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait,” 1918, platinum photograph by Alfred Stieglitz. (Courtesy of The New Mexico Museum Of Art)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Alfred Stieglitz’s photograph of a young Georgia O’Keeffe hangs next to Anne Noggle’s post-facelift self-portrait at the New Mexico Museum of Art.

The juxtaposition is part of “Shifting Light: Perspectives in Photography,” the museum’s centenary photographic exhibit, one of many in a show that is equal parts retrospective, survey and emerging talent showcase. Curator of photography Katherine Ware organized the exhibition under broad categories of landscape, community, identity and creativity. More than 80 of the museum’s collection of nearly 9,000 photographs span the museum’s second floor.

Iconic names, such as Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Alexsandr Rodchenko and Stieglitz, hang alongside a vibrant selection of recent acquisitions. The photographs range from Eliot Porter’s golden Tesuque apple tree to Patrick Nagatani’s landscape of radioactive soil near Los Alamos.

“He’s presenting a Japanese snow scene, but he calls it ‘Contaminated Radioactive Sediment,’ ” Ware said of Nagatani’s acid-green print. “We think of this as pristine wilderness here. We built a bomb here.”

“Campo Santo at El Valle” by Laura Gilpin, 1961, gelatin silver print. (Courtesy of The New Mexico Museum Of Art)

Laura Gilpin’s portrait of a New Mexico cemetery, “Campo Santo at El Valle” (1961), resembles an architectural jumble of points and angles in a modernist take on Spanish Colonial style. Michael Namingha’s 2017 digital landscapes were created with a drone.

The exhibition includes a selection of old catalogs and brochures, as well as a changing selection of promised gifts from emerging artists. A clothesline invites visitors to hang their own memories, drawings and responses to the show.

Colorado native Gilpin starred in the earliest recorded photographic exhibition at the museum in 1921. Her second museum show in 1926 featured images of Colorado’s Mesa Verde, and both Laguna and Taos pueblos. Porter’s first solo show came in 1940. The year before, the young biochemist with a Harvard University medical degree had exhibited his work at Stieglitz’s New York gallery. Both Gilpin and Porter transplanted themselves to New Mexico to become regular museum exhibitors rooted in a broader connection to the art world.

“This was always a place for contemporary art,” Ware said. “These (photographers) didn’t think of themselves as contemporary, but they absolutely were.”