Monday,
August 21, 2017

Monday,
August 21, 2017

Category:

McDermott Library Lands 'Airplane as Art' Collection with Gift

Dr. Thomas Allen

Dr. Thomas Allen, curator and university archivist at the Eugene McDermott Library, peruses “The Airplane as Art” photography collection. “As an aviation enthusiast and curator, I find the collection extremely fascinating because not only is it appealing artistically, but it’s also interesting because the photographer got the signatures of so many famous aircraft designers,” he said.

With the generosity of UT Dallas alumnus Jerry Comer MS’77, the Special Collections department at the Eugene McDermott Library is now home to a series of 302 aviation-themed photographs titled “The Airplane as Art” by renowned photographer Bob Seidemann.

The collection, described as one of the most ambitious photography portfolio projects of the 20th century, contains portraits of pilots, engineers, designers, aerobatic teams, astronauts, cosmonauts, and flight and maintenance crews. The series also features pictures of commercial, military and experimental planes as well as the space shuttle, airplane graveyards, views from the air, cockpits, aerobatic teams in formation, aircraft carriers and abstract details of aircraft.

“We feel honored to count this outstanding collection of Bob Seidemann’s work as now part of our aviation collection. His photographs bring the aircraft and pilots to life, communicating even more powerfully ideas that are sometimes difficult to comprehend in written form,” said Dr. Ellen Safley, dean of the Eugene McDermott Library. “We’re extremely grateful to Jerry for this very special donation.”

Comer, a retired engineer who earned a master’s degree in management from UT Dallas, purchased Seidemann’s photographs in May at a Heritage Auctions sale in New York City. In the past, Comer has donated rare and important photographs and books to the University.

“Many of the photos in the collection are of aircraft or parts of aircraft that are abstract and beautifully shot or framed really artistically. They’re all black and white, so there’s a lot of shadow and detail,” said Dr. Thomas Allen, curator and university archivist.

For Allen, what stands out the most is that 65 of the photos have been signed in ink on the photo by the subjects, and 61 of them are also signed by the subject in pencil on the back.

“As an aviation enthusiast and curator, I find the collection extremely fascinating because not only is it appealing artistically, but it’s also interesting because the photographer got the signatures of so many famous aircraft designers — like the man who designed the DC-3, the man who designed the F-16 and the man who designed the B-52,” Allen said.

Although it was Seidemann’s lifelong passion that inspired his aviation project, he earned a reputation as one of the most respected rock ‘n’ roll photographers of his generation. He photographed Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, and also shot a photograph titled “Blind Faith,” which Eric Clapton used as the name of the group he formed with Steve Winwood and Ginger Baker, as well as for the cover of the band’s only album.

Comer’s previous gifts to the University include more than 350 photographs that capture scenes of American life from the middle to late 20th century, as well as more than 300 books and periodicals relating to modern and contemporary art and photography.

Media Contact: Jill McDermott, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4951, [email protected]
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected]


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