UMMA exhibit invites public to vote on new additions to photography collection

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) is inviting the community to take ownership in the museum's photography collection by voting for photos in its new Take Your Pick exhibition.


The exhibition features 1,000 amateur photographs on loan from New York-based collector Peter J. Cohen, who has collected thousands of photographs from dealers and eBay for the past 20 years. Cohen's collection illustrates all elements of daily life and is organized into categories ranging from watermelons to portraits to animals to fashion.


When choosing the photographs, UMMA assistant curator of photography Jennifer Friess says she wanted the exhibition to depict the variety of Cohen's collection and represent UMMA's audience.


"We do not have enough people of color in our (photography) collection currently, and we looked for diverse types of people in photographs," Friess says. "We wanted a lot of photos of activities as well."


Visitors can view the collection and vote for the photos they'd like to see in UMMA's permanent collection. The museum will keep the top 250 vote-getters. Voters can also write in responses explaining why a particular photo should be chosen.


"People have very poignant and visceral reactions to (the photos) because they have experiences or memories of family in these ways," Friess says.


Friess says Take Your Pick has received more than 600 written responses and more than 2,800 ballots since the exhibition opened Sept. 21.


"We're a free museum, and we want the public to weigh in and have a voice in what they see and what we acquire," Friess says. "We're very interested in the community-centered aspect of the show."


Visitors can view the collection and cast unlimited votes until Jan. 12. The exhibition will be open until Feb. 23.


Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at


Photo by Mark Gjukich and courtesy of UMMA.

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