Judy Glickman Lauder & the Power of Photography — Portland Museum of Art

Judy Glickman Lauder & the Power of Photography — Portland Museum of Art

As an artist herself, beginning in the 1980s, Glickman Lauder spent three decades exploring the depths of humanity through the Holocaust, travelling to Europe, and documenting the people and places that defined the era. “I spent years going back and forth, going to many, many countries, maybe eight or nine,” she recalls, “many, many camps, many, many trains, many former ghettos, many memorials—just the remnants of that period and the inhumanity that us human beings are capable of.” That series, documented in her book Beyond the Shadows: The Holocaust and the Danish Exception, explores the lesser known history of Denmark’s remarkable efforts to protect and evacuate its Jewish citizens. “They were really the only European country that united together and saved their Jewish population,” shares Glickman Lauder. “I was able to meet with these wonderful people . . . fishermen that were risking, not only their lives, but their whole livelihood and everything—the area between Denmark and Sweden was full of mines, and this was all done at night. People all over the state were doing things, hospitals were hiding people and getting them to harbors. And I was able to photograph, to interview—it was such a privilege. And, it gave me kind of a beautiful hope for our humanity, that we can make a difference. That’s the soul of my work and what I love to collect.” 

Highlights from her artistic practice and expansive collection form the exhibition Presence: The Photography Collection of Judy Glickman Lauder, on view at the Portland Museum of Art through January 13, 2023. The exhibition takes its name from the common thread that unites these works— presence of the photographer, the viewer, the subjects, as well as the photographs themselves. Consisting entirely of works from Glickman Lauder’s photography collection, Presence captures the full spectrum of the human experience, from the anonymous to the celebrity and from the everyday to era-defining events such as the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and the Civil Rights Movement. 

In recent years Glickman Lauder has thought more about lasting impact over temporary moments. She believes in the transformative power of giving—of one’s time, of one’s energy, and of one’s means. For decades, Glickman Lauder’s generosity and vision have defined Maine’s communities. One need not look far to see her philanthropic impact across the region, from the University of Maine, to Maine Medical Center, to the Portland Museum of Art, and more. At the museum, Glickman Lauder has  been active on the Board, in committees, and  as a member for decades. And last year, she made a decision that will fundamentally change the PMA’s future: promising her entire photography collection to the museum. The collection, nearly 700 artworks and counting, is among the most significant and transformational in the Portland Museum of Art’s 140-year history. 

“The breadth and quality of this collection is remarkable,” beamed Mark Bessire, the aptly named Judy and Leonard Lauder Director of the Portland Museum of Art, when the gift was announced last year. “Judy’s lifelong love of photography and devotion to Maine comes together through this landmark gift, and our region’s future is immediately strengthened through the universal appeal of these artworks.” The collection’s impact goes far beyond exhibitions like Presence as well, serving as a catalyst for The PMA Blueprint, the museum’s campus expansion and unification project. Much like Charles Shipman Payson’s gift of 17 Winslow Homer paintings in the 1980s made way for campus growth, the Judy Glickman Lauder Collection will serve as a keystone for the next great chapter in PMA history through new and expanded gallery experiences and improved community engagement.

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