Recataloguing New Topographics

I made this project—my first DH project—in the Fall of 2014 for “The Art of Industry,” a course at the University of Rochester taught by Peter Christensen. Entitled “Recataloguing New Topographics,” the project was a digital component of my research paper about the 1975 exhibition now considered a turning point in the history of landscape photography.

In his catalogue essay, curator William Jenkins touts his selected photographers as demonstrating a “styleless style,” which the limited selection of images—only three or four per artist despite a much larger checklist—supports. How might a different selection of images tell a different story about this photographic tendency while still equally representing the exhibition? Using consumer photobook-making software, students construct their own versions of the catalogue, destabilizing assumptions about the transparency of documents to history.



Catalogues and Photo Books

In addition, this project invites students to look critically at a contemporary trend in consumer technology, being the creation of photo books. As an artistic format, the photo book blossomed—alongside New Topographics—in the 1970s. Today,

Installation view from the 1975 exhibition

Technology

This project uses the BookWright software by Blurb, one of the most popular self-publishing and marketing platforms.


 

Digital Art History Workshops

In the summer of 2017, I participated in two selective workshops about Digital Art History. The first, “The Art Historical Image in the Digital Age,” was held at the American Academy in Rome, and the second, “The Iconic Turn: Image-Driven Digital Art History,” was part of a larger series of DH workshops sponsored by the European Summer University at the University of Leipzig. Both of these workshops exceeded my expectations in ways I could not have imagined. Most broadly, the opportunities to work with art historians concentrating in a wide array of historical eras (Rome) and with art historians from across the globe (Leipzig) gave me a much wider perspective on my DH work and its potential for expansion. In different ways, both workshops encouraged my thinking about photography in relation to the reproduction of images, whether in textbooks or photobooks, as a way to expand the temporally localized interests in my dissertation (the American 1970s) to a much broader range of subjects.

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I was also honored by the opportunity to present my project on Uncommon Places to the entire ESU community, through which I received valuable feedback from an international perspective. More documentation to follow.


Histories of Photography

This project grew out of a personal desire for a place of organization, something I have found Omeka to be rather useful for. As a docent for the History of Photography galleries at the George Eastman Museum,
I receive PDFs with small images and wall text for each exhibition, which changes every few months. In preparing for my tours, however, I wanted a way to view images more in-depth that would more closely approximate the opportunities afforded in the gallery itself. Omeka offered a platform for organizing object metadata and recording my evolving thoughts on each work, especially as they were shaped by interactions with museum visitors.



Matters of Scale
Expanding out from this original function, I next began to explore ways that a web interface could enhance visitors’ understandings of the exhibitions, especially once their physical instantiations were replaced. After all, the purpose of these museum exhibitions is not simply to show off images, but to show off objects, made with different photographic processes, cameras, and materials. From this perspective, a grid or even list of equal-size thumbnails works against the idea behind the exhibitions, which is to enrich the narrative of photography’s history with an understanding of its many technological transformations. For example, the large size of certain USGS survey photographs points to practice of contact-printing glass plate negatives, while the ability to print large images in the late 20th century signals the improvement of digital printing. In the gallery, these insights are important aspects of the history as it is imparted to viewers, but the standardized scale of the typical online archive reduces if not entirely obliterates their visual impact.

Therefore, as I developed the project, I began exploring alternative modes of presentation. The current solution is rather simple: a horizontally-scrolling window in which photographs are displayed to scale. The sideways scroll and center orientation abstractly mimics the layout of the exhibition space, while the addition of a lightbox points to the experience of stepping close to a photograph and switching from exhibition view to the single object and ultimately its finest details. As a result of this project, scale has become an incredibly important element of my interest in digital technology’s potential for displaying photographic collections. Displaying objects in an exhibition at a comparative standardized scale is a fairly simple premise that nonetheless has a significant impact on how viewers understand the objects they are viewing, and I intend to pursue this issue in my future work.

Technology

This project originated as a test case for Omeka wherein I could explore the platform’s possibilities. Working with the Eastman Museum’s collection allowed me to skip right to questions about user experience, since the difficult labor of gathering metadata and creating high-quality images was already done. That being said, I quickly found that Omeka did not work quite how I imagined it to, particularly with regard to the popular Exhibit Builder plug-in. In future iterations of this type of project, I plan to explore alternative collection management systems.

For copyright reasons, this prototype site is currently password-protected. If you would like to view it, please contact me at tracy.stuber [at] gmail.com.

UR Mellon Fellows

Website

During my tenure as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Digital Humanities, I designed the fellows’ promotional material and both designed and maintained the fellows’ website.
Built on WordPress, the website was hosted on university servers, which made for some logistical challenges around updating files, installing plug-ins, and so on.

Graphic Design

My primary goal for poster design was to use a consistent, recognizable style that would tie our different events together.

polipost

polipost is a concept app that addresses the convergence of social media and political expression. Building on the premise of apps that will send physical postcards from uploaded digital images, this app encourages users to communicate visually and textually with their elected representatives about issues that matter to them. For a small fee, users can send a customized postcard to a representative of their choice that bears an image of their own making. Seeking to redirect the energies behind common practices on Facebook and Instagram, polipost is also intended to pose further inquiry into how images communicate, personally and politically.

Technology

This prototype was made using Marvel.


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