Ray K. Metzker may not be well-known to most art aficionados; however his work and career have had a profound impact on American photography. Photographing for over a half century, he has worked with and learned from some of the most talented American photographers. Born in 1931 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Metzker's interest in photography began when he was given a camera as a twelve year old boy. Metzker soon began to develop film and print photographs in a small darkroom he constructed in his room.
After high school, Metzker attended Chicago's Institute of Design to study under László Moholy-Nagy and was mentored by Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. Perhaps from their influence, his work exudes with high contrast scenery, selective focus, and multiple exposures. As a photographer who can read light levels based on experience rather than using a light meter, his prints are similarly stunning in their technical achievements showing beauty and control in maintaing rich blacks, subtle grays, and whites. Metzker was eventually offered a job at the Philadelphia College of Art where he taught for over twenty years.
To honor his work and achievements, the exhibition titled “The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker and the Institute of Design”, is on view at the Getty Center from September 25, 2012 through February 24, 2013. Organized in collaboration with Keith F. Davis, senior curator of photography at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and curated by Virginia Heckert and Arpad Kovacs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the exhibition features nearly 200 photographs, including approximately 80 from the holdings of the Nelson-Atkins.
The exhibition is accompanied by a stunning 220-page hardcover catalogue, published by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press. The catalogue includes additional photographs not in the exhibition, an essay by Keith Davis, and a foreword by Julian Zugazagoitia, director of the Nelson-Atkins.
Keith Davis asked Malcolm Grear Designers to design the catalogue. Malcolm Grear Designers has previously collaborated with Davis on numerous books for the Hallmark Photographic Collection, including his important series The Origins of American Photography. More recently the studio has worked with Davis on Heartland: The Photographs of Terry Evans and Timothy H. O'Sullivan: The King Surveys Photographs, both for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.