Snapshots of art: Michener Museum brings photojournalism and documentaries into focus this month



The Michener Art Museum is inviting people to view life through different lenses, literally and figuratively.

This month, the Doylestown museum is hosting its “Documentary Gaze” lecture series with two presentations exploring photojournalism. They’re scheduled alongside four documentary screenings held in collaboration with the nearby County Theater.

Both series are held in conjunction with the photojournalism exhibit “Unguarded, Untold, Iconic: Afghanistan through the Lens of Steve McCurry,” which began in July and runs through Oct. 23.

The programming comes in large part from Michener curatorial fellow Kelsey Halliday Johnson. She deals often with paintings and sculptures, but these events bring her closer to the media she’s focused on herself.

“I got really engaged because of my positions in both photography and new media, and I’m interested in what it means to curate film,” Halliday Johnson said.

That’s what drives the two lecture series, which focus on how photography can document the world but also be manipulated, and how the art form has pushed, and been pulled with, the evolution of documentaries.

Those lectures complement the exhibition and also the screening of “Search for the Afghan Girl,” a National Geographic feature film that follows the search for the refugee photographed for an iconic 1985 National Geographic magazine cover. “It’s a pretty tremendous story, and an interesting perspective on how things can come full circle,” noted Halliday Johnson.

The other three films in the series, “Ballet 422,” “The Pine Barrens” and “Ocean Voyagers,” are opportunities for audiences to experience documentaries made by local artists.

It’s especially exciting then, explained Halliday Johnson, to present these through the Michener, and even screen some of them there — as opposed to a theater or someone’s living room or laptop.

“We put on a different set of glasses when we enter a museum than in our day-to-day lives,” she said. “I hope it provides a new kind of engagement for all these filmmakers.”

The filmmakers, hailing from Doylestown and Bryn Athyn, will introduce the films personally and take part in Q&A sessions after them.

Halliday Johnson also notes that the “Pine Barrens” screening will come before the film’s commercial cut debut at a sold-out arts festival event in New Jersey, and will be scored live at both events by the Ruins of Friendship Orchestra.

Meanwhile, “Ocean Voyagers” is a Meryl Streep-narrated work from the nationally recognized Feodor Pitcairn of Bryn Athyn, while “Ballet 422” comes from Doylestown native Jody Lee Lipes, whose resume includes camerawork on shows like HBO’s “Girls.”

They’re different in style — “Ocean Voyagers” is a grandiose offering from a groundbreaking documentarian, while “Ballet 422” offers little in the way of narration or narrative, as it offers a rare behind-the-scenes peek at the world of ballet — but connect in each filmmaker’s status as a living, regional  artist.

“This is a great network of artists I really admire, and I’m excited to give them the opportunity to showcase their work,” said Halliday Johnson.

The film “Search for the Afghan Girl” screens at the County Theater, 20 E.State St. in Doylestown, on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.

The curator’s gallery talk for “Unguarded, Untold, Iconic: Afghanistan Through the Lens of Steve McCurry” takes place at the Michener Museum, 138 S. Pine St. in Doylestown, on Sept. 8 at 3 p.m.

The film “Ballet 422” screens at the Michener Museum on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. A Q&A session follows the screening.

The film “Ocean Voyagers” screens at the County Theater on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. A Q&A session follows the screening.

The lecture “Seeing is Believing? The Convoluted History of Documentary Photography” will be held at the Michener Museum on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m.

The lecture “Contemporary Art Photography’s Social and Documentary Turn” will be held at the Michener Museum on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

The film “The Pine Barrens” screens at the Michener Museum on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. A Q&A session follows the screening.

Costs for events at the Michener Museum is $10 for museum members, $20 for non-members and $5 for students. Costs for the County Theater are $8, $10.50  and $5. For information, visit

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