Frozen Moments Preserved Again

Author: Margaret Fosmoe ’85


The wheels of an early race car whirl, leaving spectators a blur, at the 1913 Grand Prix in Amiens, France. In 1934, a star athlete’s boot indents a football, recording the precise moment of the kick. And in 1955 in Lisbon, Portugal, a slender woman dressed in black kneels at a confessional, with a priest on the other side of the screen, their faces hidden from view.

These are among more than 10,000 images — each one a moment captured in time — in the University of Notre Dame’s photography collection housed at the Snite Museum of Art.


Now 100 items from the collection are included in a new book, A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame, Twentieth Century (D Giles Limited), written by David Acton, the Milly and Fritz Kaeser Curator of Photographs at the Snite.


The museum will host an exhibition based on the book and the collection from August 11 through December 12. The exhibition is titled “Touchstones of the Twentieth Century: A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame,” and will include works by such well-known photographers as Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine and Margaret Bourke-White.

The volume is more than a collection of photographs. For each image, Acton provides an essay detailing the life and career of the photographer, the date and circumstances of the photograph, and the technology used to create it.

The collection primarily functions as a study tool for Notre Dame students. “It’s a way to learn about the history of photography, and it’s a reflection of culture. The book is organized in a way to give students some insight into how to look at photographs, think about photographs and write about photographs,” Acton says.

The oldest image in the University’s collection dates from about 1840. A second book, focusing on 19th century images in the collection, is expected to be published in late 2022.

Margaret Fosmoe is an associate editor of this magazine.