Blog Feed

New in Print

PHOTOGRAPHY

EXHIBITION

Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography

by John Rohrbach (Editor), Erin Pauwels (Contributor), Britt Salvesen (Contributor), Fernanda Valverde (Contributor)

Cabinet cards were America’s main format for photographic portraiture throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Standardized at 6½ x 4¼ inches, they were just large enough to reveal extensive detail, leading to the incorporation of elaborate poses, backdrops, and props. Inexpensive and sold by the dozen, they transformed getting one’s portrait made from a formal event taken up once or twice in a lifetime into a commonplace practice shared with friends.  The cards reinforced middle-class Americans’ sense of family. They allowed people to show off their material achievements and comforts, and the best cards projected an informal immediacy that encouraged viewers to feel emotionally connected with those portrayed. The experience even led sitters to act out before the camera. By making photographs an easygoing fact of life, the cards forecast the snapshot and today’s ubiquitous photo sharing.  Organized by senior curator John Rohrbach, Acting Out is the first ever in-depth examination of the cabinet card phenomena. Full-color plates include over 100 cards at full size, providing a highly entertaining collection of these early versions of the selfie and ultimately demonstrating how cabinet cards made photography modern.

Hardcover, 232 pages – University of California Press – June 2020 – $45

HISTORY/ TECHNIQUE

Calotype or Paper Negatives: Historical and Alternative Photography 

by Peter Mrhar

The book Calotype or Paper Negatives in the Historical and Alternative Photography series takes the reader into the first decades after the birth of photography. The daguerreotype had already wholly conquered the world, and Talbot’s paper negatives only became more popular after the introduction of various changes. But it was only with the improvements of different French photographers that the paper negatives reached their peak. In this book, we describe these most popular and reliable methods. Thus, the reader will gradually learn all the details of making paper negatives following the procedures of Guillot-Saguez, Le Gray, Greenlaw, and Pelegry. We also mentioned some old and new variants, we devoted a lot of space to solving problems and producing positive images. I have also presented various operations in making paper negatives in the videos found on my YouTube channel.

Paperback, 164 pages – Independently published – April 2020 – $31 – Available at amazon.com

HISTORY

The Decisive Network: Magnum Photos and the Postwar Image Market 

by Nadya Bair

Since its founding in 1947, the legendary Magnum Photos agency has been telling its own story about photographers who were witnesses to history and artists on the hunt for decisive moments. Based on unprecedented archival research, The Decisive Network unravels Magnum’s mythologies to offer a new history of what it meant to shoot, edit, and sell news images after World War II.
 
Nadya Bair shows that between the 1940s and 1960s, Magnum expanded the human-interest story to global dimensions while bringing the aesthetic of news pictures into new markets. Working with a vast range of editorial and corporate clients, Magnum made photojournalism integral to postwar visual culture. But its photographers could not have done this alone. By unpacking the collaborative nature of photojournalism, this book shows how picture editors, sales agents, spouses, and publishers helped Magnum photographers succeed in their assignments and achieve fame. Bair concludes in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when changing market conditions led Magnum to consolidate its brand. In that moment, Magnum’s photojournalists became artists and their assignments oeuvres. Bridging art history, media studies, cultural history, and the history of communication, The Decisive Network transforms our understanding of the photographic profession and the global circulation of images in the pre-digital world.

Hardcover, 336 pages – University of California Press – July 2020 – $49.95

Polaroid Now: The History and Future of Polaroid Photography

Polaroid Then and Now celebrates the history and evolution of the first and foremost instant imaging camera system.  Featuring both vintage and current Polaroid photography, this book covers iconic midcentury photographers and artists, as well as contemporary creatives.  A foreword by Matthew Antezzo, Polaroid Art and Culture Director, provides both an historical account and a visionary view forward of the creative possibilities with the revered brand.  An artist index features thumbnail images of every photograph included in the book along with the name of the artist, the location, date, and the specific Polaroid camera and film stock used.  The cover of the book features the original 1960s packaging design by renowned graphic designer Paul Giambarba.  This officially licensed partnership with the world-renowned Polaroid brand is the most comprehensive book published on Polaroid to date, showcasing the work of hundreds of photographers from all over the world.

Hardcover, 400 pages – Chronicle Chroma – August 2020 – Available from Chronicle Books

FINE ARTS, PRINTS, & GRAPHIC ARTS

HISTORY

This is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot

By Alicia Yin Cheng

This Is What Democracy Looked Like, the first illustrated history of printed ballot design, illuminates the noble but often flawed process at the heart of our democracy. An exploration and celebration of US ballots from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this visual history reveals unregulated, outlandish, and, at times, absurd designs that reflect the explosive growth and changing face of the voting public. The ballots offer insight into a pivotal time in American history—a period of tectonic shifts in the electoral system—fraught with electoral fraud, disenfranchisement, scams, and skullduggery, as parties printed their own tickets and voters risked their lives going to the polls.

Alicia Yin Cheng is a founding partner of MGMT. design in Brooklyn, New York. She currently serves as an external critic for the MFA program at the Rhode Island School of Design and has taught at Yale University, Maryland Institute College of Art, Barnard College, and Cooper Union.

Hardcover, 176 pages – Princeton Architectural Press – June 2020 – $29.95

CRITIQUE

True Grit: American Prints from 1900 to 1950

By Stephanie Schrader, James Glisson, and Alexander Nemerov

In the first half of the twentieth century, a group of American artists influenced by the painter and teacher Robert Henri aimed to reject the pretenses of academic fine art and polite society. Embracing the democratic inclusiveness of the Progressive movement, these artists turned to making prints, which were relatively inexpensive to produce and easy to distribute. For their subject matter, the artists mined the bustling activity and stark realities of the urban centers in which they lived and worked…

True Grit examines a rich selection of prints by well-known figures like George Bellows, Edward Hopper, Joseph Pennell, and John Sloan as well as lesser-known artists such as Ida Abelman, Peggy Bacon, Miguel Covarrubias, and Mabel Dwight. Written by three scholars of printmaking and American art, the essays present nuanced discussions of gender, class, literature, and politics, contextualizing the prints in the rapidly changing milieu of the first decades of twentieth-century America.

Hardcover, 112 pages – Getty Publications – 2019 – $35

AUDIO VISUAL

PRACTICE

The Palgrave Handbook of Audiovisual Translation and Media Accessibility

By Łukasz Bogucki (Editor), Mikołaj Deckert (Editor)

This handbook is a comprehensive and up-to-date resource covering the booming field of Audiovisual Translation (AVT) and Media Accessibility (MA). Bringing together an international team of renowned scholars in the field of translation studies, the handbook surveys the state of the discipline, consolidates existing knowledge, explores avenues for future research and development, and also examines methodological and ethical concerns. This handbook will be a valuable resource for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students, early-stage researchers but also experienced scholars working in translation studies, communication studies, media studies, linguistics, cultural studies and foreign language education.

Hardcover, 759 pages – Palgrave Macmillan – July 2020 – $219.99 – Available from amazon.com

Book Reviews

FELIX THÜRLEMANN. MORE THAN ONE PICTURE: AN ART HISTORY OF THE HYPERIMAGE

Getty Research Institute, 2019

Reviewed by Sharon Mizota

I was excited to read More Than One Picture: An Art History of the Hyperimage by Swiss art historian Felix Thürlemann. I hoped it would provide much-needed background for the unexpected, non-linear ways in which we consume images today. 

Thürlemann defines “hyperimage” as a presentation of multiple, discreet images whose arrangement and juxtaposition create meaning. A hyperimage could be a museum exhibition, an art history lecture, or a book, but I was disappointed to discover that it does not apply (despite its tech-y sounding name), to the glut of imagery found on the Internet. Nor does it exist outside of Western European art history. The book is an informative, and at times insightful “compare and contrast” exercise familiar to most art history students, but it is a missed opportunity to make connections outside of its own discipline. For our “hyper” connected world, it’s exceedingly timid.

The book is divided into three sections, each focusing on a different type of hyperimage creator: collectors, curators, and artists. Each section is further divided into three case studies looking at specific hyperimages. All are arranged more or less chronologically, starting with 17th century salon-style hangings descended from the cabinet of curiosities, to early installations in the Louvre Museum, to more adventurous efforts by German art historian Aby Warburg and French writer André Malraux that incorporate non-Western images (and also reflect the imperialist and colonialist attitudes of their time and place). The final section is devoted to the artworks and reproductions that Pablo Picasso and Pierre Bonnard displayed on their studio walls to situate their own practices in a broader context. It ends with a look at the work of contemporary German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, whose output consists mostly of hyperimages.

Throughout, Thürlemann emphasizes how these varied creators arranged visual relationships for two main purposes: to distinguish different styles of art, and to compare works with similar iconography. German art historian Heinrich Wölfflin compared and contrasted nudes in Renaissance and Baroque styles to identify their aesthetic and formal differences. 18th century collector Johann Valentin Prehn arranged his remarkable collection of miniature oil paintings according to the “pendant” system in which pairs of images with similar subjects flank a central image, much like an altarpiece. Even Thürlemann’s reading of contemporary artist Tillmans reifies the main genres of Western photography: portrait, landscape, still life, and abstraction. This fixation with style and iconography, while certainly accurate with regard to art history, neglects other forms of hyperimage construction, such as 20th century exhibitions organized around the cultural, geographic, or racial backgrounds of the artists, or by tracing personal or professional relationships among them. 

Thürlemann’s desire to restrict his study to well-trod, Western European art historical ground is understandable. It’s no longer responsible or desirable to make grand, sweeping claims about the world. It’s too vast and chaotic, and it now seems like sheer folly to think that any one person or work could responsibly encompass all of human creation. Still, the idea of the hyperimage, as a structure that allows for relationship building, is tantalizing. I wish Thürlemann had at least gestured toward some of its broader implications for our current global context.

Still, More Than One Picture might be an illuminating read for archivists interested in the history of collecting and art historical pedagogy in Western Europe, or for museum curators responsible for the creation, presentation, and interpretation of hyperimages. For archivists, its careful analysis of creators’ intentions reinforces a bedrock concept, “respect des fonds.” Context matters.

Although it doesn’t address archival practice explicitly, the book hints at the meanings created or sundered by archival arrangement. It might make you think twice before separating images that seem to have little or no relation to each other. It might also make you question the traditional categories and criteria used to arrange and describe collections. They are also part of a long history of totalizing impulses, and may no longer serve or reflect the global, interconnected, multivalent world we live in now.


SIMON FERDINAND. MAPPING BEYOND MEASURE: ART, CARTOGRAPHY, AND THE SPACE OF GLOBAL MODERNITY

University of Nebraska Press, 2019

Reviewed by Mott Linn, CA, Los Alamos National Laboratory 

At a previous job, I oversaw both that university’s map library and the archives and special collections unit, which included a collection of artist books.  Both of these experiences helped inform this review of Mapping Beyond Measure: Art, Cartography, and the Space of Global Modernity.  Clearly, the maps are pertinent to Ferdinand’s work; however, the artist books are closer to what this book discusses.  You can think of the materials that the book is about as being “artist maps” (what Ferdinand refers to as “map art”), although he also includes more common types of art, such as paintings, that include a map.  

For those unfamiliar with artist books, they are when an artist takes a book and transforms it into art or makes art that takes the form of a book.  A well-known example is A Humument; you can see a few of its pages here: http://www.tomphillips.co.uk/humument/slideshow/1-50.  Consequently, one can think of map art as when an artist takes a map and transforms it into art or makes art that takes the form of a map.

As Ferdinand states, “This book is devoted to artistic experiments with cartography” and that the premise of the book is “that map art is especially well placed to explore themes of global modernity.”  Although much of the art he considers is two-dimensional, that is not solely the case.  For example, the last chapter is about a film and elsewhere he considers collages and walking performances.  Ferdinand, who is a lecturer in literary and cultural analysis at the University of Amsterdam, also discusses the changes that have taken place over time in the field of cartography, from the handmade maps of decades ago to the current use of GIS software. 

One of the strengths of this book is its scope: the author covers artists from around the world and art works spanning many decades. The book also features a lengthy bibliography, numerous footnotes, and an ample index.

Considering that colorful maps/artwork is what this book is all about, it is most disappointing that the illustrations are relatively small and in grayscale.  It would be very valuable for the readers to be able to judge for themselves what Ferdinand is writing about.  Although one cannot expect the format of the book to allow for full-sized illustrations of the works being discussed, it would have been nice if the publisher would have used a format larger than 6” x 9”.  Likewise, although having the images next to the text that is discussing them is optimal, having all of the images in one gathering would allow for color versions of the maps without significantly increasing the cost of the book.

Some will certainly like this theoretical book, although I prefer looking at the more traditional maps that I use to decorate the walls of two of the rooms of my home.  As the old saying states, “to each his own.”

The Story Behind the Photo

N.53.17.520 From the Albert Barden Photograph Collection, North Carolina State Archives; Raleigh, NC.

A group of men and women pose with yo-yos on the steps of City Hall in Raleigh, NC around 1930. Among them? Pedro Flores, the Filipino immigrant responsible for the revival of the yo-yo. He’s second from the left, closest to the camera.

Many people associate the yo-yo with the 1940s and 50s, but it’s been around much longer. In fact, the oldest-known reference dates to a painted Greek vase in 500 B.C. The image—a boy with his arm extended, his hand gripping a string with a dangling round object near his feet. This visage is about as anachronistic as, say, Bart Simpson donning a tunic.

But back to Flores: Although he never claimed to be the inventor of the yo-yo, he did own the patent for a modernized version. In 1928, he began manufacturing and marketing the toys. Months later, factories were up and running, churning out hundreds of thousands of yo-yos every day. Competitions happened all over the country, many featuring Flores himself.

In late 1929, Donald Duncan bought the Flores Corporation. So, only a month after the 1929 stock market crash, Flores found himself flush with money. This new wealth enabled him to concentrate on what he loved to do—promoting the yo-yo and attending contests for it. This photograph was probably taken as he passed through Raleigh on one of his yo-yo competition tours. The faces in the group stare forward, alight with the novelty and frivolity of this little toy during a heavy time of unrest and worry.

In closing, here’s a bit of yo-yo press published in The Raleigh News & Observer‘s “Views and Observations” section in October 1929.

“I ain’t exactly intolerant,” declared Tom Robertson of Chatham County, “and I take considerable pride in the fact that I’ve learned to pass a grown man wearing short pants without even turning my head, much less insulting him, but this here Yo-Yo business is just a little too much for me. I’m gettin’ afraid to come to Raleigh any more for fear my pent-up passions will bust loose and cause me to kick the daylights out of the next so-called citizen I see spinnin’ one of them little tops. I’m a lifelong democrat and up till now I never doubted my democracy but darned if I believe that a 21-year-old person who plays with one of them things in public has got any business being allowed to vote. And besides, I can’t get the hang of the dang things, anyhow.”

Ian F. G. Dunn

Processing Archivist

State Archives of North Carolina

Where Was That Taken?: Using Google to Geolocate Photographs

While photographs are not our main medium at The Center for American War Letters Archives, we do receive tons, mostly from the First and Second World Wars. At times these photos have labelsthat brilliantly aid researchers in understanding the images and the experiences of the soldiers depicted. Often, however, the photographs exist in sleeves or with the letters they were sent with, and have no label written on the back, and no real context included. We can, at times, geolocate these photographs using the correspondence or service history of the soldier in question, but censorship and vagueness in their writing or other documents can make this very difficult. That is not to mention a lack of knowledge of every individual town or village in France, for example, let alone the changes of these places over time. That is where the fun part begins and an educational opportunity opens up for students and researchers using a unique method. 

We discovered that Google Earth’s 3D function allowed us to geolocate photographs—identifying not only the city or town shown,, but the exact vantage point of the photographer. Using correspondence, or if lucky, using labels, we can determine a general location where a soldier might have been, and then use the image to pinpoint landmarks, buildings, rivers, mountains, etc. Using Google Earth, we can zoom in and out, reposition the camera angle, and determine precise landmarks.

Courtesy of the Center for American War Letters Archives (2019-060-w-r Unknown sailor First World War photo album).

One example shows the town of Bordeaux, France. The photograph, taken during the First World War by an unknown sailor, is part of a larger photo album of hundreds of landscapes, cityscapes, and people. The sailor attempted to order the photographs in chronological bunches, but not in any complete, linear fashion, as evidenced by repeating locations and events at different spaces in the album. This photo contains some labeling, but I was curious as I was processing the collection about how the photographer captured the picture from that height. What was he doing there? 

Copyright Google, Imagery 2020 and TerraMetrics, Map data 2020.

Using Google Earth’s 3D feature to search the city of Bordeaux,  I was able to find certain landmarks, such as the spire in the middle of the frame. Once I located this spire, it was a matter of getting it to match the photo and the surrounding buildings. What I found was that the photo had much to do with bell towers. This view overlooks the Grosse Cloche bell tower over an 18th century jail attached to Saint Eloi Church. The spire in the frame was the bell tower of the Saint Michael Basilica (Fléche Basilique Saint-Michel). From analyzing the Google Earth 3D view, I found that this photograph must have been taken from the top of the Tour Pey Berland, a gothic bell tower situated beside the eleventh century Cathédrale Saint-André. 

A Google search of Tour Pey Berland easily found a modern day replica of this very angle on Imgur: https://imgur.com/r/CityPorn/Jl0OAe8.

Photographs of Bordeaux show striking consistency of physical features over time, despite the ravages of two world wars. Photographs of cities like Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, however, tell quite a different story. To varying degrees, geolocation allows researchers to contextualize a soldier’s experience spatially—where were they and what were they experiencing in that place and time? What buildings were still standing? How has the cityscape or landscape changed? Using photographs to place personal stories within a larger context is important to understanding our collections.

Andrew Harman, MA, CA

Archivist, Center for American War Letters Archives

Leatherby Libraries, Chapman University

In Focus

Get Social

Instagram

A collection of ethereal musings from the past ten centuries; these illuminations, prints, paintings, and photographs, curated by Stephen Ellcock, never fail to enchant.

@stephenellcock


Twitter

Follow CollectSocialPhoto, a Nordic collaborative project developing methods for collecting social digital photography in museums and archives. Their website includes updates, resources, and information on related conferences and workshops throughout the world.


Online Opportunities

In case you missed it

Put on a kettle and listen to sessions delivered at 2017’s “Photo Archives IV: The Place of Photography,” an international conference whose focus was investigating photographs and photographic archives in relation to notions of place. 


Let’s get lost! 

Prepare to lose your day in this charming collection of early Japanese animation from the National Film Center, Tokyo. [Site is in English]


You (didn’t) have to be there

Street photography enthusiasts, rejoice! Closed for the pandemic, the 2020 Italian Street Photo Festival has taken its program online


On display

The works of Charles “Teenie” Harris, legendary chronicler of Pittsburgh’s African American community and photographer for The Pittsburgh Courier, now have a dedicated gallery at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The exhibition features iconic examples of Harris’s photographs and will be the focus of a number of educational programs and community events inspired by this world-renowned collection.


Get Involved

Time wasters

You are probably stuck inside anyway, so why not participate in the Getty Challenge?

**This one has been going on for a while–it might be stale now, but is still hilarious.


Lend a hand

Looking for useful ways to pass time during your next Zoom meeting? Spend a few moments tagging historic structures, details, and byways in NARA’s Citizen Archivist crowdsourcing project for the Bureau of Public Roads, 1896-1963 Records.


Group efforts

View crowdsourced images documenting scenes of self-isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic or submit your own to the Isolation Museum.


Education

Learn something

Travel plans scrapped? Don’t despair–there are still are plenty of opportunities for distance learning. Check out the (occasionally free) offerings from SAA, NEDCC, and AMIA.

From the Chair

Greetings, colleagues, from the first blog edition of Views!

In these times of decreased staff and budgets, and increased workloads, I find it challenging to be engaged professionally beyond the demands of my current position. Maybe it’s just me, but something tells me I’m not alone there. I hope the flexibility of the new platform proves less taxing on our dedicated editorial staff and encourages more of us (myself included) to contribute content. The ongoing success of Views going into the future depends on it.

A belated thanks to all of you who made the Section meeting a great success. Patrick Cullom’s presentation, which addressed the challenges of processing a newspaper photo morgue, and Elliot Williams’ presentation, which addressed the challenges of creating metadata for large collections, were informative and thought provoking. Both generated lively audience discussions, demonstrated the collective experience of Section members, and created an atmosphere of comradery. An especially big thanks goes to Sandra Varry for organizing and running the meeting, her leadership throughout the past year, and preparing me to assume the office of Chair. For those of you who attended the preconference tour of the Wittliff Collection, tasted Tex-Mex fare at the Section dinner, or shared pastries, ramen, or Israeli street food at one of the meetups, I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. And if you took pictures of any of the Section activities, please send them along so we can update the website.

Following the flurry of activity surrounding the Annual Meeting, I returned to work inspired by the presentations and sessions, excited to have met new colleagues, and utterly exhausted. Now, nearly three months later, it’s time to get back to VMS business and focus on the future.

2020 marks the end of the Section’s current Three-Year Plan that laid out core activities and specific initiatives. It also marks the start of SAA’s Strategic Plan 2020-2022, approved by Council in May, that asks the question, “What will constitute future success?” The plan defines four specific goals and provides strategies to achieve them with the intent of answering the question. Over the next several months, leadership will review the Section’s current plan and begin drawing up a new one with an eye towards incorporating elements of SAA’s plan. But to create a robust plan that truly reflects the Section’s membership, leadership will need your input. Next month I will convene leadership to begin strategizing, and minutes of the meeting will be posted on the VMS website. Of course if you’re already champing at the bit to participate, by all means send me an email. Otherwise, stay tuned for future communications.

Mary Alice Harper

Head of Visual Materials Cataloging

Harry Ransom Center

The University of Texas at Austin



Follow the Visual Materials Section Blog

Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.

Get to Know Our Newest Steering Committee Members

Alison Anderson, MSLIS, CA 

Senior Processing Archivist

Harvard Planning Office, Property Information Resource Center

VMS Member-at-Large, 2018-2021

Hi, I am the incoming Visual Materials Section member-at-large. I am the Senior Processing Archivist at the Harvard University Property Information Resource Center (PIRC), which is the repository for Harvard’s buildings and land records. I work primarily with architectural drawings, but I also process maps, photographs, and property records. I enjoy the challenges that architectural drawings pose, including their size, condition, and various formats. What I love most is that even though our collections only directly relate to Harvard’s properties, they are actually extremely diverse. Instead of an archive that collects the works of a few architects or an architectural firm that retains only their own work, I get to view the works of hundreds of architects across centuries, each possessing a unique style. Also, after I process a drawing, I can walk out onto the campus and see the finished product! It is fascinating to see the growth of a university that has existed for almost 400 years.

Lilli Keaney

Harrison D. Horblit Photograph Librarian

Houghton Library, Harvard University

VMS Member-at-Large, 2019-2022

Hi everyone! I’m excited to be more involved in VMS and SAA and serve the Section as a member-at-large. I’m fortunate to work exclusively with photographs, and love that I can really dive into the complexities these materials require. We often don’t have a lot of accompanying information to identify the photographs in our collection, and I truly enjoy the occasional foray into a little detective research work. Sometimes this can be quite fruitful, but even when it isn’t, I always learn something new about the history of photography. The information I do find is critical to my work and to providing access; I primarily work on digital projects and putting a photo online without a lot of metadata can make it difficult for users to find. As an added benefit, that data also gives me the chance to experiment with new ways of presenting the material to our users.

Polaroids from Heaven: Developing an Active Learning Session with Unconventional Visual Resources


Examples of student work from the “Alterations” assignment in the course, Alternative Photography.


A photograph of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing on a rose petal, a Polaroid of unexplained religious symbols in the clouds, and an image of a mysterious flash of light that eerily resembles the name of a Portuguese child visionary from 1917… How can archivists use controversial or unconventional photographs like these to support student learning? This post provides a lesson plan for an active learning session with archival visual resources that was part of the Alternative Photography course at the University of Dayton.  

As the liaison to the Department of Art & Design, I have many wonderful opportunities to collaborate with faculty in fine art, art history, and art education. I was particularly excited when I was put in touch with a faculty member teaching the course Alternative Photography, which focuses on non-traditional photographic processes and emphasizes experimentation with the photograph as a physical, social, and intellectual phenomenon. The content of this course was a perfect opportunity to use a fascinating archival collection of photographs and accompanying documents related to Marian apparitions–reported supernatural appearances by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The teaching faculty member and I developed a special collections instruction session that served as the foundation for an assignment called Alterations: Negative, Print, Space. The goal of the assignment was to introduce students to manipulation of the photographic negative, print, and viewing space. For this assignment, students were involved in all aspects of the photographic process including concept development, exposure of the film, formal manipulation of the negative/print, the making of the final print, and final display. The special collections instruction session provided context, historical background, and critical perspectives for the image-making portion of this assignment.

Prior to the session, students read the article, “Polaroids from Heaven: Photography, Folk Religion, and the Miraculous Image Tradition at a Marian Apparition Site” by Daniel Wojcik. During the session, students engaged in three separate but related activities: speed-dating with archival visual resources, pair and share, and affinity mapping. This culminated in a final discussion on the collection themes as they related to the assignment.


Students at work during the “speed-dating” activity with the Marian Apparitions collection.

Lesson Plan Outline

Speed-dating activity: Students analyzed an item from the archival collection and answered the questions: What is the item? When, where, and/or by whom was it created? What are some keywords that describe this item? What questions does this item raise for you?

Pair and share: Students shared their findings, initial reactions, and questions with a partner and discussed the prompts: Where do you see the photographer’s hand in these images? How might you think about this collection in the context of photographic alterations?

Affinity mapping: Students identified keywords from the speed-dating activity, wrote them on post-its, and mapped them into themed categories on a whiteboard. This became a launching point for further discussion on collection themes.


Outcomes and Reflection

Over the next two course meetings, students created images and then critiqued them. As a librarian teaching mostly one-shot sessions, the critique was the perfect opportunity to engage with students after the archives session and learn more about the outcomes and any potential impact of their experience with the collection. During the critique, students identified both direct and indirect impacts of engaging with the archival collection as a foundation for creating their own images. For example, one student identified the “spiritual experience” she had while creating images and another student mentioned that her images were directly inspired by the idea of creating an apparitional experience for the viewer. Other student work aesthetically referenced the archival collection. 

Through active learning, the collection facilitated encounters with analog photographic processes, analysis of the various dimensions of religious imagery, critical perspectives on photographic manipulation (both of the image and of the viewer), and discussion on the history and contexts of apparition photography.

Jillian Ewalt
Librarian for Visual Resources/Associate Professor
Marian Library, University of Dayton


New In Print: PHOTOGRAPHY

ANALYSIS

The Image of Whiteness: Contemporary Photography and Racialization

by Daniel C. Blight, editor

“A unique study of art photography as a means to understand whiteness. In a time of new fascist and alt-right politics, from Donald Trump to Tommy Robinson, this book attempts to locate the “image of whiteness” as a thing both imagined and pictured so that we can better understand its meaning and construction. In over 60 images, a contextual essay and a number of interviews with artists and scholars, this book seeks to introduce its reader to some important extracts from the troubling story of whiteness and describe its falsehoods, paradoxes and oppressive nature. At the centre of these pages lies a set of important questions all white people should ask themselves: How was whiteness invented? What does whiteness look like? And is it really ever ok to be “White”? This book argues that the invention and continuation of the “white race” is not just a political, social and legal phenomenon, but also a complexly visual one.”

Hardcover, 224 pages – SPBH Editions/Art on the Underground – October 2019 – $31.15 – Available at Amazon.com

PERSPECTIVES

Documentary Photography Reconsidered: History, Theory and Practice 

by Michelle Bogre 

“Documentary photography is undergoing an unprecedented transformation as it adapts to the impact of digital technology, social media and new distribution methods. In this book, photographer and educator Michelle Bogre contextualizes these changes by offering a historical, theoretical and practical perspective on documentary photography from its inception to the present day.  Documentary Photography Reconsidered is structured around key concepts, such as the photograph as witness, as evidence, as memory, as narrative and as a vehicle for activism and social change.”

Paperback, 264 pages – Bloomsbury Visual Arts – October 2019 – £31.49 – Available at Bloomsbury 

PRACTICE

Notes on Archives 2: Culture Is Our Business

by Ines Schaber, editor

“In the process of transferring analog material to digital data banks, small independent archives are often not able to keep up with bigger, economically driven archives, such as stock-image companies.

Notes on Archives 2: Culture Is Our Business considers the case of Willy Römer, who in 1919 took a photograph of the street battles in the media district of Berlin during the German Revolution. Circulating widely throughout the twentieth century, Römer’s photograph in 2004 came to be owned simultaneously by a number of archives. Among them were the commercial stock-image agency Corbis, founded by Bill Gates, and the Agentur für Bilder zur Zeitgeschichte (Agency for images on contemporary history), an independent organization established by photo historian Diethart Kerbs. Both Corbis and Kerbs’s agency handle and make available the same image based on extremely different concepts and working processes. The book considers the complex issues around these two agencies. At stake in these differences are how the image’s story should be told, and how this telling is embedded in the viewing and understanding of history. This publication includes material from the artwork Culture Is Our Business by Ines Schaber along with a conversation with Diethart Kerbs and a text by Reinhard Braun.”

Softcover, 44 pages – Archive Books and Camera Austria Graz – September 2018 – €12.00 – Available at Archive Books

New In Print: FINE ARTS, PRINTS, & GRAPHIC ARTS

HISTORY

Communist Posters 

by Mary Ginsberg

“One of the common features of communist regimes is the use of art for revolutionary means. Posters in particular have served as beacons of propaganda – vehicles of coercion, instruction, censure and debate – in every communist nation. They have promoted the authority of state and revolution, but have also been used as an effective means of protest.  This is the first truly global survey of the history and variety of communist poster art. Each chapter is written by an expert in the field and examines a different region of the world: Russia, China, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba. This beautifully illustrated, comprehensive survey will appeal to a wide audience interested in art, history and politics.”

Paperback, 272 pages, 295 illus. – Reaktion Books – April 2020 – £25.00 – Available at Reaktion Books, Ltd. 

IN FOCUS

Exhibits

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings + Landscapes

Oct. 19, 2019–Feb. 2, 2020 / October 17-December 21, 2019

Need a reason for a road trip? Head down to Atlanta, where two exhibitions featuring the photography of Sally Mann are on display this Fall. Through February 2, 2020, the High Museum of Art is hosting Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings, which explores how her relationship with the land has shaped her work and how the legacy of the South—as both homeland and graveyard, refuge and battleground—continues to inform American identity. Through December 21, 2019, Jackson Fine Art is host to Remembered Light, an intimate, personal series documenting a creative fellowship between herself and the artist Cy Twombly, as well as images of the tactile traces remaining after his passing in 2011. The results are a luminous rumination on what a life leaves behind.

Acquisitions

 Nature Self-Portrait #2, 1996, Laura Aguilar. Gelatin silver print, 14 x 19 1/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council, 2019.19.2. © Laura Aguilar Trust of 2016

Laura Aguilar Photographs

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The largest museum acquisition of Laura Aguilar’s photography, a cache of 35 photos produced during her three-decade career, was recently obtained by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The photographs–often featuring Aguilar, who died last year–explore her Latinix, working-class, and queer identity, providing insight into the creative vision of an artist gone too soon. A selection of the prints will go on view in Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photographs (December 17, 2019–March 8, 2020 at the Getty Center).

Education

Hilversum, Netherlands Symposium

“Archives, assumed to be containers of memory, are vested with a particular power to constitute and define who is and who is not included in (his)stories. We explore what “decolonizing” the archive – within and beyond the walls of established institutions – could offer for the production of new bodies of knowledge.”

Organized by the KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies & the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision , Inward Outward will investigate the status of moving image and sound archives worldwide as they intertwine with questions of coloniality, identity and race. Registration for the symposium opens at the end of October and is free of charge.

Online Symposium

Did you miss SFMoMA’s symposium “The Artist Initiative Symposium on Photography: Reprinting Color Photographs as a Preservation Strategy”? Never fear, video and transcripts are now available! The symposium includes discussions from photographers, conservators, and curators on the issues and challenges concerning the reprinting of color photographs, a history of reprinting photographs at MoMA, as well as philosophical and ethical framework for projects.

Good to Know

Get some standards! New to Audiovisual processing or just curious on how other institutions handle these complex collections? Check out the newly revised Guidelines for Processing Collections with Audiovisual Material from the Archives of American Art. 

Get Social

Instagram

Explore the unexpected beauty of found imagery with Lost and Found Archive, a collection of scanned 35mm slides found at boot fairs, jumble sales, garage sales, junk shops and markets. Curated by U.K. artist Neil Brown.

Tumbler

Lose yourself in this continuous delight of graphic materials selected by the staff of University of Wisconsin-Madison.