All posts tagged: photography

Framing the Audience: Art and the Politics of Culture in the United States, 1929-1945

Reviewed by Elizabeth Eikmann, Saint Louis University Isadora Helfgott. Framing the Audience: Art and the Politics of Culture in the United States, 1929-1945. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015. 326 pages. 21 color plates. The culture wars of the years surrounding the 1930s are known for the many and well-fought domestic battles over high art, popular culture, and consumerism. During this era, the barriers between high and popular art upheld by centuries of tradition came crumbling down as leftist American artists worked to redefine the relationship between art and the greater society. Mass circulation of visual media gave 1930s Americans unprecedented access to art and, as scholars such as Michael Denning have argued, it would be during this decade that art gained a new power to create, challenge, and reinforce ideas about national politics, economy, and identity. While numerous scholars have focused their work on the art produced during this time, Isadora Helfgott’s Framing the Audience: Art and the Politics of Culture in the United States, 1929-1945 flips the focus onto the figures behind and beyond the …

Fieldnotes from the Hy Meisel Slide Collection

Written by Ali Feser An inquiry into the senses, in this light, directs us beyond the faculties of a subject to the transfers, exchanges, and attachments that hinge the body to its environment. Objects are endowed with histories of sensory experience, stratified with a plurality of perceptual possibilities.1 Outbreaks of nostalgia often follow revolution.2 Hy Meisel lived his entire life in Rochester from 1895 to 1980, and he worked as a machinist for Eastman-Kodak, which has been based there since the 1880s. Though Kodak now employs only a couple thousand workers, it was the city’s largest employer for most of the twentieth century. From census records I know that Hy didn’t finish high school but could read and write. While growing up, his family moved frequently to different homes in the same predominantly German neighborhood. His father was a sometimes preacher; they often took in boarders. I found Hy’s draft card and the passenger list from his cruise to Guatemala. I learned that Hy never married, that he never had kids. Much of this is …

Lynching 2.0

The video found on the website of The Guardian, has a “tag” of Eric Garner’s name right above the full title: “‘I can’t breathe’: Eric Garner put in chokehold by NYPD officer – video.” The British newspaper’s logo sits in the top right corner of the video frame, while in the bottom is another designation: “Daily News.” These watermarks, proprietary claims on the video and its contents remain throughout the whole of the two minutes and forty-eight seconds video – not so subtle reminders of who owns this particular iteration of this specific event. There’s a title card disclaimer: “Warning: contains distressing images,” just before the video starts. The video itself is relatively low resolution – there is none of the crispness of high definition capture – and shot in portrait rather than wide-screen landscape, leaving the video itself to be columned by two large black empty spaces. The first sounds beyond the hiss of background noise consist of two voices – one diegetic (Eric Garner) and one non-diegetic – saying almost simultaneously “I aint do …

Art Documents: The Politics of Visibility in Contemporary Photography

Written By Jayne Wilkinson Photography has long been regarded for its power to make visible and to document the unseen and the unknown aspects of our world. As the technological force par excellence of the past hundred and fifty years and as a medium however defined, the processes that shape what we have come to understand as the photographic universe1 challenge the ways we see and understand the world around us. Photographic representation offers a kind of deferred sight, a way to see after the fact what was not visible in the moment. Whether analogue, digital, formal, vernacular, reportage, conceptual, social or any of the wide range of forms that photography now takes, the properties of the photograph make visible, or reveal, something not seen in the first instance. This production of visibility acts as a mirage, one that simultaneously obscures and reveals the social and political relations embedded within the processes of production. In addition to the immediate relations between photographic producer, object, and viewer there are also relations that exist external to the visible …