Where Photographs Meet Words: A #WorldPhotoDay Reading List

Tomorrow is World Photo Day, a celebration bringing together millions of photographers worldwide to share their stories and inspire global change through the power of photography. A snapshot of some of our great photography titles is below; be sure to check out our photography subject page to browse even more titles, as well as our previous World Photo Day posts.

In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte by David Bacon 

In this landmark work of photo-journalism, activist and photographer David Bacon documents the experiences of some of the hardest-working and most disenfranchised laborers in the country: the farmworkers who are responsible for making California “America’s breadbasket.” Combining haunting photographs with the voices of migrant farmworkers, Bacon offers three-dimensional portraits of laborers living under tarps, in trailer camps, and between countries, following jobs that last only for the harvesting season. He uncovers the inherent abuse in the labor contractor work system, and drives home the almost feudal nature of laboring in America’s fields.

Told in both English and Spanish, these are the stories of farmworkers exposed to extreme weather and pesticides, injured from years of working bent over for hours at a time, and treated as cheap labor. The stories in this book remind us that the food that appears on our dinner tables is the result of back-breaking labor, rampant exploitation, and powerful resilience.

 

The Uses of Photography: Art, Politics, and the Reinvention of a Medium edited by Jill Dawsey 

The Uses of Photography examines a network of artists who were active in Southern California between the late 1960s and early 1980s and whose experiments with photography opened the medium to a profusion of new strategies and subjects. Tracing a crucial history of photoconceptual practice, The Uses of Photography focuses on an artistic community that formed in and around the young University of California San Diego, founded in 1960, and its visual arts department, founded in 1967. Artists such as Eleanor Antin, Allan Kaprow, Fred Lonidier, Martha Rosler, Allan Sekula, and Carrie Mae Weems employed photography and its expanded forms as a means to dismantle modernist autonomy, to contest notions of photographic truth, and to engage in political critique.

Contributors include David Antin, Pamela M. Lee, Judith Rodenbeck, and Benjamin J. Young. Published in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

 

Freedom Now!: Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle by Martin A. Berger

In this groundbreaking catalogue, Martin Berger presents a collection of forgotten photographs that illustrate the action, heroism, and strength of black activists in driving social and legislative change. Freedom Now! highlights the power wielded by black men, women, and children in courthouses, community centers, department stores, political conventions, schools, and streets. Freedom Now! reveals that we have inherited a photographic canon—and a picture of history—shaped by whites’ comfort with unthreatening images of victimized blacks. And it illustrates how and why particular people, events, and issues have been edited out of the photographic story we tell about our past. By considering the different values promoted in the forgotten photographs, readers will gain an understanding of African Americans’ role in rewriting U.S. history and the high stakes involved in selecting images with which to narrate our collective past.

 

The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology edited by William A. Ewing and Barbara P. Hitchcock 

Published to accompany a major traveling exhibition, The Polaroid Project is a creative exploration of the relationship between Polaroid’s many technological innovations and the art that was created with their help. Richly designed with over 300 illustrations, this impressive volume showcases not only the myriad and often idiosyncratic approaches taken by such photographers as Ansel Adams, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ellen Carey, and Chuck Close, but also a fascinating selection of the technical objects and artifacts that speak to the sheer ingenuity that lay behind the art. With essays by the exhibition’s curators and leading photographic writers and historians, The Polaroid Project provides a unique perspective on the Polaroid phenomenon—a technology, an art form, a convergence of both—and its enduring cultural legacy.

Contributors: William A. Ewing, Barbara P. Hitchcock, Deborah G. Douglas, Gary Van Zante, Rebekka Reuter, Christopher Bonanos, Todd Brandow, Peter Buse, Dennis Jelonnek, and John Rohrbach.

 

Artist as Reporter: Weegee, Ad Reinhardt, and the PM News Picture by Jason E. Hill

Active from 1940 to 1948, PM was a progressive New York City daily tabloid newspaper committed to the politics of labor, social justice, and antifascism—and it prioritized the intelligent and critical deployment of pictures and their perception as paramount in these campaigns. With PM as its main focus, Artist as Reporter offers a substantial intervention in the literature on American journalism, photography, and modern art. The book considers the journalistic contributions to PM of such signal American modernists as the curator Holger Cahill, the abstract painter Ad Reinhardt, the photographers Weegee and Lisette Model, and the filmmaker, photographer, and editor Ralph Steiner. Each of its five chapters explores one dimension of the tabloid’s complex journalistic activation of modernism’s potential, showing how PM inserted into daily print journalism the most innovative critical thinking in the fields of painting, illustration, cartooning, and the lens-based arts. Artist as Reporter promises to revise our own understanding of midcentury American modernism and the nature of its relationship to the wider media and public culture.

 

Uncertain Histories: Accumulation, Inaccessibility, and Doubt in Contemporary Photography by Kate Palmer Albers

The compulsion to dwell on history—on how it is recorded, stored, saved, forgotten, narrated, lost, remembered, and made public—has been at the heart of artists’ engagement with the photographic medium since the late 1960s. Uncertain Histories considers some of that work, ranging from installations that incorporate vast numbers of personal and vernacular photographs by Christian Boltanski, Dinh Q. Lê, and Gerhard Richter to confrontations with absence in the work of Joel Sternfeld and Ken Gonzales-Day. Projects such as these revolve around a photographic paradox that hinges equally on knowing and not knowing, on definitive proof coupled with uncertainty, on abundance of imagery being met squarely with its own inadequacy. Photography is seen as a fundamentally ambiguous medium that can be evocative of the historical past while at the same time limited in the stories it can convey. Rather than proclaiming definitively what photography is, the work discussed here posits photographs as objects always held in suspension, perpetually oscillating in their ability to tell history. Yet this ultimately leads to a new kind of knowledge production: uncertainty is not a dead end but a generative space for the viewer’s engagement with the construction of history.

 

Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe by Rebecca A. Senf and Stephen J. Pyne

Using landscape photography to reflect on broader notions of culture, the passage of time, and the construction of perception, photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe spent five years exploring the Grand Canyon for their most recent project, Reconstructing the View. The team’s landscape photographs are based on the practice of rephotography, in which they identify sites of historic photographs and make new photographs of those precise locations. Klett and Wolfe referenced a wealth of images of the canyon, ranging from historical photographs and drawings by William Bell and William Henry Holmes, to well-known artworks by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, and from souvenir postcards to contemporary digital images drawn from Flickr. The pair then employed digital postproduction methods to bring the original images into dialogue with their own. The result is this stunning volume, illustrated with a wealth of full-color illustrations that attest to the role photographers—both anonymous and great—have played in picturing American places.

Rebecca Senf’s compelling essay traces the photographers’ process and methodology, conveying the complexity of their collaboration. Stephen J. Pyne provides a conceptual framework for understanding the history of the canyon, offering an overview of its discovery by Europeans and its subsequent treatment in writing, photography, and graphic arts.

 

The Last Pictures by Trevor Paglen

The Last Pictures, co-published by Creative Time Books, is rooted in the premise that these communications satellites will ultimately become the cultural and material ruins of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, far outlasting anything else humans have created. Inspired in part by ancient cave paintings, nuclear waste warning signs, and Carl Sagan’s Golden Records of the 1970s, artist/geographer Trevor Paglen has developed a collection of one hundred images that will be etched onto an ultra-archival, golden silicon disc. The disc, commissioned by Creative Time, will then be sent into orbit onboard the Echostar XVI satellite in September 2012, as both a time capsule and a message to the future.

The selection of 100 images, which are the centerpiece of the book, was influenced by four years of interviews with leading scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, and artists about the contradictions that characterize contemporary civilizations. Consequently, The Last Pictures engages some of the most profound questions of the human experience, provoking discourse about communication, deep time, and the economic, environmental, and social uncertainties that define our historical moment.


The Polaroid Project: Instantly fun. Forever iconic.

Recently named a notable opening by the New York Times, The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology is on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art starting on June 3.

The richly designed catalogue provides a unique perspective on the Polaroid phenomenon—a technology, an art form, a convergence of both—and its enduring cultural legacy.

 

Through the corporation’s own artist support program, which provided many with materials, Polaroid helped shape the artistic landscape of the late twentieth century. The Polaroid Project showcases not only the myriad and often idiosyncratic approaches taken by such photographers as Dennis Hopper, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ellen Carey, Andrea Wolff, Ansel Adams, Chuck Close, and many more, but also presents a fascinating selection of the technical objects and artifacts that speak to the sheer ingenuity that lay behind the art.

 

The impressive exhibition displays a variety of image sizes and formats produced over decades of time, and has been organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis/New York/Paris/Lausanne, in collaboration with the MIT Museum, Cambridge, Mass., and the WestLicht Museum for Photography, Vienna. If you are lucky enough to be in the Fort Worth area, don’t miss Ellen Carey‘s artist talk on June 10.

Enter to win a copy of the catalogue via our Goodreads giveaway (through July 1).


#MuseumWeek Spotlight: Upcoming Exhibitions + Catalogues

While #MuseumWeek can be used to highlight timely issues in the art world, or just for fun, we are featuring some of our fantastic museum partners, along with the upcoming catalogues we’re co-publishing with them.

First up, our neighbors at the Oakland Museum of California. Opening on April 29, Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest features the dream-like works of American painter Roy De Forest.

Available now, exhibition catalogue by Susan Landauer

“In this thoroughly professional, immaculately organized, and factually overflowing book, the reader is set to be inspired by the adventure that was Roy De Forest.” —New York Journal of Books

The engaging catalogue presents gorgeous color reproductions of De Forest’s finest artworks, plus a variety of figure illustrations that illuminate the artist’s diverse sources and freewheeling social and creative milieu in Northern California.

Check out OMCA’s new e-magazine for extensive content related to the show, including listening stations featuring audio narrations from unconventional guides. Of special note, this exhibition is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

It should come as no surprise that our neighbor across the Bay, the de Young Museum (FAMSF) is the host of the Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock and Roll exhibition opening on April 8. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary, this will be an exhilarating display of iconic rock posters, photographs, interactive music and light shows, costumes and textiles, ephemera, and avant-garde films of the adventurous and colorful counterculture that blossomed in the years surrounding the legendary San Francisco summer of 1967.

Extensively illustrated with thematic plates and essays, the catalogue explores the visual and material cultures of a generation searching for personal fulfillment and social change.

Start your journey back in time with the museum’s new digital story, ‘Idealism on Haight’, which includes audio narrative by curator Jill D’Alessandro and more.

Also, the California Historical Society has teamed up with San Francisco Travel to create a compelling site, complete with a calendar of events and historical content.

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art has another historic (and nostalgic) show coming up: The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology opening June 3.

On the New York Times“notable openings” list for the Spring/Summer, this major traveling exhibition was organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography in collaboration with the MIT Museum, Cambridge, Mass., and the WestLicht Museum of Photography, Vienna.

Looking at the creative exploration of the relationship between Polaroid’s many technological innovations and the art that was created with their help, the richly designed catalogue has over 300 illustrations, and impressively showcases not only the myriad and often idiosyncratic approaches taken by such photographers as Ansel Adams, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ellen Carey, and Chuck Close, but also a fascinating selection of the technical objects and artifacts that speak to the sheer ingenuity that lay behind the art.

The Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara has Radical Bodies: Anna Halprin, Simone Forti, and Yvonne Rainer in California and New York, 1955–1972 on view through April 30.

Also featured in the New York Times this week, the show next travels to the New York Public Library in May, followed by Jacob’s Pillow Dance in the Berkshires.

“On a hillside in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, north of San Francisco, amid the redwood trees, lies what is arguably the most important outdoor deck in American dance history.”—New York Times

The Radical Bodies show and catalogue reunites Halprin, Forti, and Rainer for the first time in more than fifty-five years, examining the work and influence of the three artists. Placing the body and performance as political practice at the center of the aesthetic debate, each thereby developed a corporeal language and methodology that continues to influence choreographers and visual artists to the present day. Radical Bodies also made the news surrounding political protests in New York in January. Timely indeed.