In 1969, the fledgling Albuquerque Museum hired photographer Walter McDonald to take pictures of Albuquerque. The idea was simply to photograph the people and the place in the candid style of a street photographer to create an archive that could be displayed with slide projectors within an exhibit at the museum (then located at the Sunport). It was a plum assignment for a photographer with broad parameters and a small budget. It was the kind of photography assignment that inadvertently documents while not being actual documentary photography. The project eventually included a few other photographers and continued until 1972 when it was apparently caught in the undertow of the museum politics of the time. Such is the fate of many a good idea.
What we (the people of Albuquerque) get out of the deal 50 years later is an archive of several thousand slides that make up this body of work. They are full of life in a bustling, colorful time in our history. Incorporated into an exhibit that includes maps, clothing and other pieces from the museum’s archive, they tell a story about who we were. Fifty years later, and well into the 21st century, we are a very different people inhabiting a changed city. Or maybe we are aren’t. That is the great thing about this archive; it is an opportunity to have that debate (with pictures to bolster your case) and that is where the fun really starts.
Albuquerque Museum is putting these photographs online and they want the public to help figure out who is in them. You can go to albuquerque.emuseum.