Light and Presence: Richard Benson’s “The Touro Synagogue”

Curated by Megan Horn

March 3, 2021 - April 25, 2021

Wright Gallery

The bond between photography and historic sites is not a new phenomenon. In fact, photography has been explicitly relied upon to document and preserve significant cultural and architectural sites since the nineteenth century. In his 1988 portfolio, “The Touro Synagogue,” Richard Benson does far more than simply document architecture. With his black and white photographs, Benson allows viewers to experience the intimacy of the site. Designed by architect Peter Harrison and completed in 1763, the Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the United States. The synagogue has survived the British occupation of Newport during the American Revolution and major shifts in Newport’s economic history, and early on its congregation participated in advocating for religious freedoms in the United States’ Bill of Rights. Benson’s photographs of this Newport landmark make the presence of the past felt.