Alibi V.29 No.1 • Jan 2-8, 2020 

Art Magnified

Guess Who

The slides of Walter McDonald

Walter McDonald slide
A slide by Walter McDonald in the Albuquerque Museum collection
Photo of slide by Clarke Condé

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.com and look through the ever-expanding collection. Browse through with your abuela (or uncle, mom or really old neighbor), learn a bit about what life was like 50 years ago and see if you see someone you know. If you do, let the museum know with an email (to abqmuseum@cabq.gov). They are hoping to put names with faces. It is a declarative opportunity to be part of our collective history: an opportunity that people 50 years ago didn’t even know they had.

Let the Sunshine In

On exhibit through May 24
Albuquerque Museum
2000 Mountain Rd. NW