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Telfair Museums presents Michael Kolster: Take Me to the River, a solo exhibition of contemporary wet-plate ambrotypes from the artist’s Rivers series (2011–2014), on view at the Jepson Center July 12 through September 29.

In Take Me to the River, Kolster (American, b. 1963) explores four American rivers that flow into the Atlantic Ocean—the Androscoggin, Schuylkill, James, and Savannah—as they emerge from two centuries of industrial use and neglect.

“In 2016, I visited Mike’s studio in Brunswick, Maine,” said Rachel Reese, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Telfair Museums. “He was working out of a former industrial mill building that overlooked the Androscoggin River, and it was this perspective from his studio windows that sparked his initial curiosity in his hometown river’s history and how to represent it in all its allure and complexity. Audiences will delight in a close look at what these photographs reveal and in identifying the images as places we recognize and might take for granted, including our own Savannah River.”

The ambrotype is a historic photographic process developed in the 1850s, around the time the Industrial Revolution began to impact the waterways’ ecology. Kolster’s work, which focuses on the rivers contemporaneously, recalls this historical relationship by encouraging the physical transformations that become visible on the plates: the slurry of chemicals and sediment mirror the altered marine landscapes he is capturing.

“By virtue of the fact that Kolster is working with such a demanding medium that involves a large-format camera and portable darkroom, the locations depicted in his photographs are viewpoints that anyone can access,” said Erin Dunn, Assistant Curator at Telfair Museums. “His photographs invite the viewer to consider these the rivers not just through their industrial past, but as approachable, visible, and essential elements of the landscape.”

Kolster was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up in Rochester, New York. He holds a BA in American studies at Williams College, an MFA at the Massachusetts College of Art, and a certificate from the full-time Documentary Photography program at the International Center of Photography in New York City. Kolster is Professor of Art at Bowdoin College, where in 2008 he received the Sydney B. Karofsky Prize for Junior Faculty in recognition of his teaching. In 2013, he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Photography. His work is included in the permanent collections of the American University of Paris, Center for Creative Photography, George Eastman Museum, High Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Photography, and Princeton University, among others.

Images can be accessed via the following Dropbox folder link.

Michael Kolster: Take Me to the River is organized by Telfair Museums and curated by Rachel Reese, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and Erin Dunn, Assistant Curator.

Investment is provided by the City of Savannah.

Related Programming:

Opening Program: Michael Kolster Artist Talk

Thursday, July 11
6pm | Jepson Center

Free to members / non-members $8

Join artist Michael Kolster for discussion of his work in Michael Kolster: Take Me to the River.

Sponsored by Telfair Academy Guild.

About Telfair Museums

Opened in 1886, Telfair Museums is the oldest public art museum in the South and features a world-class art collection in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District. The museum encompasses three sites: the Jepson Center for the Arts, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, and the Telfair Academy. 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of both the Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters. For more information, call 912-790-8800 or visit

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