Over almost half a century, James and Cherye Pierce have thoughtfully, seriously, and enthusiastically collected photography spanning its history. Together, they assembled one of the finest art photography collections in private hands in this country, comprised of over one thousand works. The Pierces have also long supported the New Orleans Museum of Art. They have given several important works over the years, they have underwritten publications and exhibitions, and Cherye Pierce has served as a national trustee of the museum since 2004. It was the perfect alignment of histories when the Pierces decided to give the majority of their collection to the museum in 2020. That year, they gave over 260 works outright, with over 400 more promised as a future gift to the museum. This landmark gift considerably strengthens NOMA’s photography collection, adding a range of photographs from beautiful vintage works by well-known photographers to excellent contemporary works by artists that the Pierces discovered on their own.

The term photogenic is popularly used today to describe a person or thing’s natural ability to look good in a photograph, but the two roots of the word—photo (light) and genic (produced by)—also signal the origins of a photograph. This exhibition embraces both the literal and the colloquial interpretations of the term: it is full of a very wide range of photogenic objects, all of which involved a light-printed image at some point in their making, and in turn those objects share images of a variety of “photogenic” things. The exhibition also celebrates the past, present, and future generosity of the Pierces, which is itself a generative force for the photography department at NOMA. Installed in three separate gallery spaces, this exhibition demonstrates the capacity of a world-class collection to articulate numerous histories of photography.

Photogenic: Photographs from the Collection of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce is organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art and is supported by the Del and Ginger Hall Photography Fund and the A. Charlotte Mann and Joshua Mann Pailet Endowment.

The Spinner, from Spanish Village


W. Eugene Smith

Gelatin silver print on paper

Collection of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce, 2020.57.124



Julie Cockburn

Hand embroidery and ink on found photograph

Museum purchase with funds provided by James F. and Cherye R. Pierce, 2019.58

White Iris


Laura Gilpin

Platinum print on paper

Collection of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce, PG.2020.307

Behind the Gare St.Lazare


Henri Cartier-Bresson

Gelatin silver print on paper

Collection of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce, 2020.57.22

The End is Near


Dan Tague

Giclee print on paper and dollar bill

Collection of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce, 2020.57.107

Fisheye View of Rockefeller Center

circa 1938

Wendell MacRae

Gelatin silver print on paper

Collection of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce, 2020.57.78

Peking University, Beijing, China


Lois Conner

Platinum print

Gift of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce, 2020.57.24