I worked for seven years at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts doing darkroom work and digital archiving. Now and then the photography curator Ted Hartwell would pop his head into our studio. I think he missed the smell of the darkroom. Ted started working in the same studio in 1962. Like nearly all museums of that time, the MIA didn’t have a curator of photography. So Ted did double duty and started putting together small shows. By the time he officially became curator of photography in 1972, he’d mounted major exhibitions and developed the foundation for a world-class photography collection.
I loved Ted’s visits to our studio. Where else in Minneapolis could I talk to a guy who hung out with Richard Avedon and Henri Cartier-Bresson? Despite traveling in those circles, Ted was utterly approachable. For all of his curatorial achievements, he was still doing double duty – he still loved the life of photography: making pictures, hanging out, chewing the fat about the new Nikon.
Like Ted, I eventually graduated from the old studio to larger pastures. He showed me love and encouragement every step of the way. Last year he led a MIA group to my studio. He spoke about me with almost parental pride:
A proper obituary for Ted should talk about his incredible achievements. But right now I can only talk about the man. Ted Hartwell was a good, good man. He will be greatly missed.