Seeing is a way of knowing; photography is a way of thinking.                                                                                                                                                                  —Anne Whiston Spirn

This exhibition showcases the photographic work of world-renowned writer, scholar, and landscape architect Anne Whiston Spirn. The author of several important books on landscape, Spirn is known for her multi- disciplinary practice that evolves from her photographic work. Her new book, The Eye Is a Door: Landscape, Photography, and the Art of Discovery, features this work and describes her approach.

This is the first major exhibition to explore how Spirn’s photographs encourage a deeper understanding of the natural and built environment through the development of visual literacy–the ability to read and analyze visual information. This approach to learning allows people to question and interpret what they see, which has broad implications across many fields of inquiry and design.

About the Artist

Spirn views photography as a tool that helps hone this ability by focusing attention on significant details in the landscape in order to discover the invisible. She has been on the forefront of the movement to make this kind of visual thinking a fundamental part of people’s daily lives.

As a teaching museum, Smith College Museum of Art is dedicated to nurturing visual literacy in an interdisciplinary environment.

Produced over the past 35 years, the images in the exhibition capture stories and ideas embodied in places the artist has visited for her research, which range from the volcanic landscapes of Iceland to sacred Buddhist gardens in Japan.

The 46 color images featured in THE EYE IS A DOOR connect such diverse topics as geology, biology, astronomy, anthropology, engineering, architecture, history, literary studies, global studies, studio art, and landscape studies.


Image: Anne Whiston Spirn. American, born 1947. Glen Loy, Scotland. September 1978. Pigment print on paper. ©Anne Whiston Spirn