Anne Wilkes Tucker ’67 hates violence. She refuses to go to violent films and hides her eyes during fist fights in movies. Yet, for the past eight years, Tucker has spent hundreds of hours examining more than a million war photography images in archives around the world.
Some were touching and even funny. But many were so vivid, so horrific, they will never leave her memory.
“I used to be shocked at what man is capable of doing to his fellow man,” said Tucker, the curator for photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and a member of Randolph’s Board of Trustees. “Now, I am heartbroken.”
MFAH will debut an unprecedented exhibition exploring the experience of war through the eyes of photographers in November. Tucker, along with colleagues Will Michels and Natalie Zelt, organized the exhibition, War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath, which includes 480 objects and photos from more than 280 photographers from 28 nations. The show spans 165 years of conflicts all over the world, beginning with the Mexican- American War in 1847.
Tucker and her two colleagues come from three different generations, each 20 years apart. Michels spent 11 years working with veterans as the restoration architect for the USS Texas. And Zelt, who has a brother serving in Afghanistan, has also been personally impacted by war. “They both feel that if we are asking our men to do this, then we owe it to them to look at these photos,” Tucker said.
Tucker, an art history major at R-MWC, earned a second undergraduate degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and a graduate degree from the Visual Studios Workshop, a division of the State University of New York.
Her passion for history and the art of photography have served her well during her nearly 40-year career in the arts. In 2001, Time magazine named her America’s Best Curator.
Her new show will travel to the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, California, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. The exhibition is accompanied by a 620-page catalogue.
“The photographers are the wonder of this project,” Tucker said. “These men and women put themselves in harm’s way because they believe it is very important that these acts of man—be they heroism, horror, or both—must be recorded.”
The emotional impact of the show is significant, prompting the museum to post warning signs in some galleries. “If somebody said to me that anyone who leaves this show will be exhausted, I say that’s OK,” Tucker said. “We hope it makes people look and think and that it opens discussions.”