The Kingston Collection of Vernacular Photographs has been built over the past 35 years by Rodger Kingston, a Boston collector, photographic historian, and documentary photographer. The collection consists of over 4000 mostly "vernacular" photographs: that is, images that were made to accomplish a job of work (as opposed to fine art photographs that were meant only to be seen aesthetically, on walls or in books). Kingston is the first collector to build an entirely vernacular photographic collection.
Where traditional histories of photography, exemplified by Beaumont Newhall and Helmut Gernsheim, have emphasized the technical evolution of the medium from the top down, through a progression of its great masters, Kingston has developed a model that has allowed him to build his collection from the bottom up, around photography's many uses.
A work in progress, this web site is built around Kingston's pragmatic model of a vernacular photographic history. Each of the galleries below houses an “exhibition” from the collection that focuses on one of the uses of photography. Many images in the collection appear in more than one of these usage categories, or galleries. Since the mid-1970s the collection has been exhibited many times and individual images have been published widely.
Part of the power of this collection is its impression of "everydayness." But it is merely an impression, for there is nothing haphazard or accidental or average about these images. Kingston carefully selected each photograph and object to fill a specific niche in the fabric of photographic history and usage, from humble snapshots to high art mammoth plate 19th century landscapes.
A photographer himself, Kingston built the collection by relying on an ever-growing knowledge of photographic history, a well developed aesthetic sense, a highly discerning eye, and pure instinct, searching out remarkable photographs that, often as not, others weren't yet ready to see as even worth having. That was the challenge, and increasingly, for Kingston, the greatest pleasure. Making a great new anonymous acquisition was very exciting: slightly subversive, but extremely uplifting. Kingston is a connoisseur – a connoisseur of the commonplace. His intention is to help to shift the traditional focus of photographic history to something vastly more inclusive than we can currently imagine.