The 1896 Washington Salon and Art Photography

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  • This article discusses the first salon (formal exhibition) of American photography, The Washington Salon and Art Photographic Exhibition of 1896. Sponsored by an amateur camera club and held at Washington's Cosmos Club, it was organized to showcase art photography and to push the idea that photography should be considered a viable art form. Described are salon participation rules which divided the entries, mainly from amateurs, into two categories: artistic, which included the work of pictorialists, and technical. General photographic techniques are discussed, and lengthy note is made of the fact that although noted American photographer Alfred Stieglitz was a strong supporter of the photography-as-art movement in the U.S., he did not participate in the salon; since prizes were awarded, as he did not value it as a true European-type salon.
  • The article argues that the Smithsonian viewed the salon as an opportunity to expand its national collection of photographs, as fifty of the 345 on display were selected by Smithsonian officials as additions to its new Section of Photography.


  • Stieglitz, Alfred 1864-1946
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.)
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) (NMAH)
  • United States National Museum
  • Photography, Section of
  • Division of Photographic History
  • Cosmos Club (Washington, D.C.)
  • Washington Salon and Art Photographic Exhibition of 1896, The (Exhibition)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


This article was published during the centenary exhibition of "The 1896 Washington Salon and Art Photography" at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Ten photographs are included and 11 reference sources listed.

Contained within

American Art Review Vol. IX, No. 1 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


February 1997


  • Photography
  • Art
  • Exhibitions
  • Museums
  • History
  • Museum exhibits
  • Art--History
  • Photographs



Physical description

p. 110-115

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