Fine Art Photography Daily

A Certain Uncertainty: Selections from the Cassilhaus Collection

Larson_Every Picture Tells A Story

©Rebecca Sexton Larson, Idiom Series: Every Picture Tells a Story, Pigment Print

A couple of years ago at the CLICK! Photo Festival, I had the great pleasure to visit Cassilhaus and meet the creators, Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus. Ellen and Frank have a particular sensibility to their collecting, one that resonates deeply with my own. Many of their images are mysterious, or obscured in some way. Visual Artists and Curators, Tama Hochbaum and Lori Vrba have created a wonderful exhibition for the Horace Williams House in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that highlights some of the collection in, A Certain Uncertainty: Selections from the Cassilhaus Collection. Tama and Lori approached the collection looking for works that hold an element of ambiguity, either literal or metaphorical.  The exhibition runs through November 24th.

The artists included are Rebecca Sexton Laron, Keith Carter, David Simonton, Sean Kernan, Mario Cravo Neto, Jindrich Streit, Ralph Steiner, David Scheinbaum, Sally Mann, David Goldes, Michael Garlington, Elijah Gowin, Masao Yamamoto, Jack Spencer, Maria Miesenberger, Doug Keyes, Emmet Gowin, Roger Manley, Mimmo Jodice, M.J. Sharp, John Rosenthal, Mario Cravo Neto and Bernard Descamps. A selection of the work follows.

A Certain Uncertainty; from The Cassilhaus Collection from Lori Vrba on Vimeo.

E_Gowin, Emmet_Edith Chincoteague

©Emmet Gowin, Edith, Chincoteague, VA 1967 Gelatin Silver Print

Cassilhaus Collectors’ Statement

The Cassilhaus Collection is an idiosyncratic and passionately assembled group of more than 500 contemporary images and objects collected by Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus. The collection represents more than 300 artists of 35 different nationalities, over 90% of whom are living, working artists. Almost 80% of the collection is photography or photo-based work with the balance in works on paper and sculpture. With a few exceptions, the work was produced in the last 50 years.

For me there is an immediacy and simple graphic allure to photography that compels like no other medium. Black & white, color, and various alternative processes are well represented. Ours is a collection as much of stories as it is of images and objects. Many of the artists we collect and gallery owners we patronize have become close friends and most of our favorite works are tightly bound to a story of discovery or a particularly wonderful artist encounter, art fair, or travel adventure. While there is no easily identifiable (to me at least) single focus or theme to the grouping, there is an undeniable unifying gestalt that allows the work to play and evolve together well as a collection.

Ours is a working collection. We don’t have work sitting in flat files (at least not for long.)  Our work is framed and exhibited in our home and workplaces, loaned to museums and arts venues, and used as teaching tools for the many school and museum groups that visit Cassilhaus. It moves around a lot.  With our recent initiative to put our entire collection online for the public to enjoy we hope to share this work we love with an even broader audience. I never could have imagined 20 years ago when I started on this journey how central this passion would be to my life and how essential it would become for both Ellen and I to surround ourselves with works of art, particularly photographs, that surprise, engage, and nourish us.

Frank Konhaus
August 2019


©Raymond Meeks, Pumpkinhead, Gelatin Silver Print from Wet Plate Negative

B_Rosenthal_John Keats Valle Crucis NC 1981

©John Rosenthal, Valle Crucis, NC 1981, Vintage Gelatin Silver Print

D_Manley_Sammy Ross Delaplane VA

©Roger Manley, Sammy Ross, Delaplane, VA Gelatin Silver Print

F_Jodice_Picolo Abito

©Mimmo Jodice, Picolo Abito (de la Serie Eden) Vintage Gelatin Silver Print


© Doug Keyes, Flowers, A Guide to American Wildflowers, Dye Coupler Print

H_Yamamoto_121 from a Box of Ku

©Masao Yamamoto, #121 from A Box of Ku (bottle) Toned Gelatin Silver Print

I_Gowin, Elijah_Cup

©Elijah Gowin, Cup Pigmented Inkjet Print


©Jack Spencer, Gladys and Her Mother Behind the Clothesline, Cove City, NC Vintage Toned Gelatin Silver Print


©Maria Miesenberger, Untitled (Triptych II) Vintage Chromogenic Dye Coupler Print

L_Goldes_Walk the Dog

©David Goldes, Walk the Dog Gelatin Silver Print

M_Mann_Virginia at 9

©Sally Mann, Virginia at Nine, Toned Gelatin Silver Contact Print

N_Garlington_The Fishmonger's Daughter

©Michael Garlington, The Fishmonger’s Daughter, Toned Gelatin Silver Print

O_Streit_Jirkov, Republique Tcheques

©Jindrich Streit, Jirkov, République Tcheques, Gelatin Silver Print

R_Kernan_The Argument

©Sean Kernan, The Argument, Toned Gelatin Silver Print

T_Simonton_Wilson County NC May 2008

©David Simonton, Wilson County, May 2008 Toned Gelatin Silver Print

U_Carter_Angel 1998

©Keith Carter, Angel, Toned Gelatin Silver Print

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