This major international conference was convened by Geraldine Johnson (University of Oxford), Deborah Schultz (Regent's University London), and Costanza Caraffa (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz—Max-Planck-Institut). It is the sixth in the Photo Archives conference series.
This conference took place on April 20–21, 2017.
The conference investigated photographs and photographic archives in relation to notions of place. In this context, place was used to explore both the physical location of a photograph or archive, as well as the place of photography as a discursive practice with regard to its value or significance as a method of viewing and conceiving the world. Photographs are mobile objects that can change their location over time, transported to diverse commercial, artistic, social, academic and scientific locations. The photograph’s physical location thus has an impact upon its value, function and significance; these topics were explored at the conference through a range of archives and across disciplines. How might the mobility of photographs open up thinking about archives and, in turn, classificatory structures in disciplines such as Art History, Archaeology and Anthropology, or in the Sciences? The conference also addressed questions of digital space, which renders the image more readily accessible, but complicates issues relating to location. What is the place, or value, of the photographic archive in the digital age?
It was sponsored by the Kress Foundation, the John Fell Fund and the History Faculty's Sanderson Fund at the University of Oxford, and Christ Church, Oxford.
Photo Archives VI Welcome Day 1
Opening remarks on the first day of the conference. Geraldine A. Johnson is Associate Professor of History of Art at Oxford University and a Fellow of Christ Church, Oxford. She is the editor of Sculpture and Photography: Envisioning the Third Dimension and co-editor of Picturing Women in Renaissance and Baroque Italy. Deborah Schultz is Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture at Regent’s University London. She completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford on Marcel Broodthaers: Strategy and Dialogue (published 2007).
Photo Archives VI Welcome Day 2
Opening remarks on the second day of the conference. Costanza Caraffa has been Head of the Photothek at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institut since 2006. In 2009 she initiated the Photo Archives conference series dedicated to the interaction between photographic archives, photography and academic disciplines.
Photo Archives VI: Transports of Vision: Frederic Edwin Church's Photographic Collection of the Mediterranean and Middle East
Frederick N. Bohrer (Hood College) discusses Frederic Edwin Church's photographic collection. The 19th-century American painter Frederic Edwin Church’s photographic collection is an object lesson in archival curation. It does not fully illustrate or inform a viewer about place so much as it assembles (and excludes from vision) a controlled locale. Church’s collection embodies a variety of uses of photographic imagery in the context of a mobile subject, located within a larger network of cultural authorities and visual purveyors. It also presents a view of the porous boundaries between other visual media that photography inserted itself within, which works to problematize or fracture their claims to objectivity and invites new ways to theorize them.
Photo Archives VI: The Archive in Transition: Reframing Josef Sudek’s Photographic Reproductions of Art
Katarina Masterova (Institute of Art History, The Czech Academy of Sciences) discusses the objecthood of Josef Sudek's photographic archive. This paper examines the process of revaluing Josef Sudek’s (1896–1976) professional archive of almost 20,000 photographic reproductions of works of art housed in the photo library of the Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Transferred from Sudek’s studio in 1978, this collection was, until recently, interpreted merely as an art historical tool to view the depicted artworks. The paper discusses the ways in which restoring the objecthood of the analogue photographs facilitates the process of reclaiming and re-identifying the archive’s lost functions and meanings. Thus this methodological shift reconstructs the archive as a multifunctional reservoir, which, through the process of transfer between various spaces, uncovers innovative analytical approaches and produces new layers of historical knowledge.
Photo Archives VI: The Relational Album: Photographic Networks, Anthropology, and the Learned Society
Christopher Morton (University of Oxford) discusses the concept of the relational museum applied to an album from the Anthropological Society in London. This paper takes the notion of the ‘relational museum’ – the concept that museum objects to some degree conceal the mass of relations that lie behind them – and applies it to a nineteenth-century album compiled at meetings of the Anthropological Society in London. The album is something of a ‘scrapbook’, as such this album is a particularly important ‘relational’ object, enabling a rich and nuanced insight into the relationships between photography, anthropological knowledge, and scientific networks in nineteenth-century London. The paper gives an overview of the album’s relational networks and suggest ways in which it shifts our understanding of photography and anthropology in a crucial period in the discipline’s early history.
Photo Archives VI: Sticking points: Photographic albums and the forgetful archives of Egyptian archaeology
Christina Riggs (University of East Anglia) discusses the 'forgetfulness' of photo albums from excavations in colonial and interwar Egypt. Almost every archive associated with fieldwork from archaeology's 'golden age' includes photographic albums. The album was one way of ordering, and producing, the knowledge of the past that was archaeology’s ostensible goal. But like the process of photography itself, archival processes such as assembling an album also reflected - and shaped - knowledge of the present, and in particular, a knowledge of the places where archaeology did its work. This paper explores the quality of forgetfulness that albums enable, alongside the question of place, by considering the creation, form and content, and subsequent histories and uses of albums originating from excavations in colonial and interwar Egypt.