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Arts & Culture

'Plodding Forward': Tom Bamberger Reflects on 40 Years of Photographs

Tom Bamberger is one of Milwaukee's leading architectural and public space critics. But he's also a nationally acclaimed photographer, who recently donated more than 400 of his works to the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend. 

"My artwork was a refuge from myself, that's what saved me. That was the drug," says Bamberger. 

About a quarter of the photographs he donated are on display at the museum in an exhibit called, Tom Bamberger: Hyperphotographic. The exhibit was curated by the museum's director, Laurie Winters, who has been a fan of Bamberger's for decades. 

"I like Tom's work, and have liked it for twenty years, but there is a kind of coherency and logic that has emerged as a consequence of this exhibition," says Winters. "So Tom will be happy to know he makes sense now."

"There's lots of different paths you could find through forty years of work," adds Bamberger. "And the path that Laurie found is... a really good one." 

Credit Tom Bamberger
Pete’s World, inkjet pigment print face mounted on plexi, 2014, Museum of Wisconsin Art Permanent Collection.

He admits that he doesn't often look back at his work. As an artist he tends to focus on the present, continually moving "forward," with his art. 

"In my view, the best artists do a lot of dumb stuff," he says. "You have to have the courage to do stuff and then most of it doesn't work and you just keep going forward...  I think what Laurie discovered is that the only gift I really had was to plod in small steps forward. So it took forty years and I actually did go forward."

Tom Bamberger: Hyperphotographic will be on display at the Museum of Wisconsin Art through May 21st.