Since he began collecting photographs for the University of New England in the 1960s, Stephen K. Halpert has always depended on the generosity of photographers.

Now, thanks to a 2016 gift from Judy Glickman Lauder and Leonard Lauder, Halpert has a budget to work with. In the past two years, using interest from the Glickman-Lauder gift, Halpert has purchased more than 70 photographs. Nearly all of them are on view through Oct. 8 at the Art Gallery at UNE in Portland.

The formal title of the exhibition is “The Permanent Photography Collection: Recent Acquisitions in the Stephen K. Halpert Photography Collection at UNE,” reflecting the renaming of the collection in Halpert’s name – something the longtime Portland resident described as honor. “It’s very nice to have some recognition for having done something, but I don’t feel like taking all the credit,” he said.

“We have never had a budget before this,” Halpert said delightedly. “Before this, our collection was probably 200 or a little more than 200 photographs, and almost every one a gift from the photographers.”

The Art Gallery at UNE on Stevens Avenue in Portland is showing 70 recently acquired photographs, nearly all from local photographers, through Oct. 8. Courtesy of UNE

And up to this point, the collection has been built on the strength of the many Maine-based photographers Halpert has known many years.

“I have been doing this a long time, so I go back to some of the same people,” he said. “But that’s not necessarily how it will continue. As I get a little more adventuresome, I am trying to spread a small amount of money over a lot of work. But maybe now I will try to acquire some things that are more expensive, but fewer of them. That might mean going beyond local photographers.”

He said the money he has to spend each year changes with the value of the Glickman-Lauder investment. He declined to be specific, but said it amounted to several thousand dollars annually.

Fran Vita-Taylor’s “Day in Marseillan 2,” captured in Marseillan, France. UNE acquired the archival digital print through a fund established by Judy Glickman Lauder and Leonard Lauder. Courtesy of UNE

Halpert, who holds the title of curator of photography, began working for Westbrook College in 1964 and began showing art in empty spaces on campus soon after he arrived. Because of his personal interest in photography, Westbrook College, and later UNE, became known as a place where photographers could show their work. He developed friendships with photographers Todd Webb, Berenice Abbott and others, infusing the collection with the standard of excellence that distinguished it from the start.

Hilary Irons, gallery and exhibitions director at UNE, said the Glickman-Lauder gift and Halpert’s expertise and credibility mean UNE is positioned to remain a leader in contemporary photography.

“The way the Glickman-Lauder Fund resonates with the university and the UNE Art Gallery is to really give Steve Halpert a specific voice in building and growing the collection,” she said. “Steve has been collecting with a lot of specificity in terms of place and the human approach to the environment one lives in. He gravitates toward work that has a sensitive portrayal of people in the world.”

Interwoven in that narrative are photographs from across the world – Somalia, London, Israel – that also tell a story about home and community.

Irons said having actual money to work with has been transformative. “It allows him as curator of photography to really not only continue that narrative and strengthen it, but put together a viable collection the university will always have access to.”

The exhibition is on view through Oct. 8 at the gallery at 716 Stevens Ave., Portland, and hours are noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.


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