The 1960s and 1970s was a time of transition in American art. Artists clamored for change, crossing boundaries previously drawn between art and popular culture. Photography played an active role in this period as artists who were not photographers, used the medium at the service of their ideas, while others addressed the nature of photographic representation itself. The medium was embraced by the art world at large. At the same time, artists, curators and art historians asserted the independence of the photographer’s artistic voice, championing the medium as an autonomous means of creative expression with its own pictorial language. By the late 1970s the roster of galleries and museums exhibiting photographs increased, and academic programs expanded to meet the demands of interested students.
In the early 1970s, significant exhibitions of work by Imogen Cunningham, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans were mounted at The Print Center. In 1972 an Ansel Adams exhibition included 120 photographs and was the largest retrospective of his work to date. In 1974 an exhibition debuting Ray Metzker’s recent photographs from New Mexico and a solo show for George Krause were mounted, and in 1975 Emmet Gowin was the subject of a solo exhibition. By the late 1970s, the Annual International Competition expanded to accept photographs.