University of Rochester

Photographs by Charlie Arnold Showcased in New Exhibition

September 12, 2006

A career retrospective of the work of Charlie Arnold, a highly respected Rochester photographer, printmaker, and xerographic artist, will open Friday, Sept. 15, in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library at the University of Rochester. The 60 photographic prints on display belong to the library's Charles Arnold Archive.

"Charlie Arnold: The Love of the Visual" will chronicle Arnold's images from his early years working near Providence, R.I., as a museum photographer to his 50-plus years in Rochester associated with George Eastman House and Rochester Institute of Technology. He is known by many as a beloved teacher during his 31 years at RIT's Photographic Arts Division of the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. It continues through Jan. 15, 2007.

Arnold has described himself as among that special group of art photographers of the 1950s who were not accepted as artists. "Photography was documenting stuff and that's not art," Arnold said in a City newspaper interview in 2003. "Even during the Farm Security Administration, even though there were wonderful things created there, the whole premise was to document."

His experiments with xerography went far beyond recording life as others saw it. He could create a still life and make his own prints in just a few minutes—unheard of in the '50s. Twenty years later, he was an international leader in the field of "electrostatic art," which was produced by putting objects on the glass of a copying machine and then hitting the "start" button. Arnold began these attempts when a Xerox Corp. researcher gave him a copier.

Photographer Carl Chiarenza, artist in residence at the University of Rochester and Fanny Knapp Allen Professor Emeritus of Art History, was a student of Arnold's in the mid-1950s. "I remember when Charlie, in a beautiful green sport coat, began teaching a small group of green BFA photography students at RIT," says Chiarenza. "Charlie, in his unique understated laid-back fashion, imparted to us his extraordinary sense of design, his amazing intuitive sense of how to build a picture. We learned because he was infectious.

"A half-century later, I understand better than ever why he was so good," Chiarenza points out. "It is because, just as quietly, he has been producing a body of some of the richest, most unusual, deeply intuitive and emotional images from which I have ever had the opportunity to be transported into my own being. The work directed his teaching, and like the man, it is unique."

Arnold has received many awards and accolades; his work can be found in museums and galleries throughout the world. The Charles Arnold Jr. Lecture Series was created at RIT in his honor when he was named professor emeritus in 1987.

An opening reception in the Rare Books Library exhibition space on the University's River Campus will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 15. Hours for the exhibit are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, contact (585) 275-4477 or check the Web at

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