About This Exhibition

No Mountains in the Way, the aptly named and groundbreaking documentary photography project, appeared in 1975. The Wichita Art Museum celebrates the 40th anniversary of this important investigation of Kansas and its distinct spirit through photography.

James Enyeart, Terry Evans, and Larry Schwarm— young artists who have attained considerable achievement in the intervening decades–each examined particular aspects of the Kansas rural environment. Their collective visions combined to poetically reflect place, culture, and custom in Kansas.

The 1970s project was inspired by the epic documentary photography undertaken by the federal government in the 1930s and 1940s. Under leader Roy Stryker from 1935 to 1944, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) sent some of the era’s most talented photographers on a mission to capture rural poverty on film at the height of the Great Depression. This project now provides the enduring image of the hard times of this historic moment in the United States. Gordon ParksAmerican Gothic, Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Walker Evans‘ prints of the Burroughs family–these iconic photographs are creations taken under the FSA auspices.

The Kansas documentary photography project acknowledged the rich legacy and influence of the FSA. How had the rural American changed since the Great Depression of the 1940s, the project leaders asked? How might today’s photographers document and reflect the American heartland in Kansas?

New governmental funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) supported the trio of 1970s photographers to update the FSA images with their visions of contemporary Kansas life. James Enyeart focused his lens on architecture. Terry Evans documented people living on the land. Larry Schwarm trained his eye on the landscape—furrowed field to windswept terrain. The results were presented at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. Because the undertaking was supported by the NEA, prints were given to this federal agency. These photographs–now celebrated as vintage prints–are now part of the holdings of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Wichita presentation of 63 classic images from this project of 120 prints are on special loan from this rich Smithsonian archive.

Plowed fields with a farmstead in the far background

Larry Schwarm, Douglas County, from the Kansas Documentary Survey Project, 1975. Gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts

Exhibition Sponsors and Donors

Black and white photograph of four boys in a doorway of a barn with hay on the ground and a haybale visible that one of boys is sitting on. Boys are dressed in t-shirts and jeans.

Terry Evans, Untitled, from the Kansas Documentary Survey Project, 1974. Gelatin Silver Print, 7 x 6 7/8 inches. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts

THANK YOU to all of the exhibition sponsors making this exhibition possible.

No Mountains in the Way, 40 Year Later: Kansas Documentary Photography is generously sponsored by Fidelity Bank Foundation.

All museum exhibitions receive generous sponsorship from the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and the City of Wichita.