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.
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,
This project uses the BookWright software by Blurb, one of the most popular self-publishing and marketing platforms.
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.
Inspired by postcards, this project takes Shore’s Uncommon Places as an opportunity to explore how photographs—like these postcards—move, circulate, and affect our vision of place. His original 1982 publication of the series included 49 photographs made over many years and many trips. Rather than mapping the book’s impractically—even impossibly—peripatetic route, the first part of this project will map the distribution of each photograph’s place to new sites of residence. In addition, when possible, the maps will include sites of each photograph’s exhibition, demonstrating the distribution within Shore’s selection of images, already themselves then from a much larger group, as representatives of his work. Drawing on the geometric quality of Shore’s large-format compositions, this project asks how photography’s reproducibility and the existence of many distinct prints of the same negative disrupt normative expectations of geographical space.
The second part of the project takes the geographical distance between photographs of the same place as a jumping off point for thinking about photography’s mutability. While multiple institutions may own the same photograph, they may vary in printed size and condition, to name some examples. The instability of 1970s chromogenic dyes also makes for pronounced variations in color due to fading over time. Digitized versions of these photographs available on museum websites make these variations at once more apparent and more opaque. Differences in digital image size, color modes, and scanning technologies accentuate the phenomenon of variation while adding their own versions, muddying the ability to know much at all about the physical print despite the claims of digital archives to tell us just that.
The user is given the opportunity to explore these issues through an interactive interface where images can be toggled between what we might think of “thumbnail” and “full size” images, generically put, as well as between prints. That some images can be enlarged much more than others—due to differences in scanned resolution–points again to the opaque inconsistencies marring the assumed transparency of the digital archive. Where possible, I hope to include as such metadata as possible about the photo objects as well as the digital images.