Category Archives: Photography

August Snapshots: This Picture Wants You!


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Hand pointing, light beams in background © SuperStock/Corbis.

August’s This Picture photograph has been, to my mind, one of the most enigmatic we’ve had so far. Depending on how you see it, the pointing finger can be accusatory, celebratory, or just plain puzzling. The responses we have received from all of you have risen gamely to the challenge of unpacking the meaning and associations of this picture. The four responses that stand out to me as the most intriguing are:

  • “What your retina records the millisecond prior to your eyeball being poked. ‘At least it’s not a sharp stick.’” —George Slade
  • Roy Lichenstein’s Finger Pointing (Corlett 126), 1973 as a rebuttal to. —April
  • “The first and most obvious reaction I have is to think of the famous 1917 WWI Army recruitment poster by Flagg. The image is both accusatory and motivational…it is identifying you (me) for action or lack of action.” —Mike
  • “Power. But does he have it, or does the viewer? Don’t let those light beams fool you…there’s something almost accusatory about that pointing finger. It’s almost as thought the finger is urging the light beam to move forward in an aggressive manner. Something disturbing and aggressive about this image.” —Becka Wright

Congratulations to George, April, Mike, and Becka! You are this month’s winners of the Program Manager’s Picks contest. Your prize (coming soon) is free admission to an upcoming World Premiere of The Invisible Photograph, which can be redeemed at one of our two remaining screenings, including our next one on September 19. Continue reading

This Picture: Guy Bourdin, Ad for Charles Jourdan Shoes


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Guy Bourdin, Ad for Charles Jourdan shoes, c. 1970, Estate of Guy Boudin, represented by Michael Hoppen Gallery, London. Used by permission.

I remember seeing this ad as an art student—it kind of had everything: a post-Carnaby Street, pre-hippie moment with mixed and matched colorful shoes and tights, presenting an edgy story and a sense of unattainable style.

It’s impossible to explain how unbelievably cool Charles Jourdan shoes were back then, and how coveted. None of us could afford them, but I was eventually able to buy a pair of red slip-on moonboots at a 70%-off sale at Macy’s. I wore them to death. Continue reading

This Picture: Barack Obama by Dawoud Bey


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Barack Obama, 2007 © Dawoud Bey, courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery.

Dawoud Bey’s photograph of the man who would soon be president was taken on a Sunday afternoon in early 2007, at Barack and Michele Obama’s Hyde Park home. The portrait is at once stately and informal. Obama’s hands are folded gracefully in his lap. He wears an elegant suit and white shirt, but no tie. He stares intensely into the camera.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography had commissioned Bey the year before to take a portrait of a notable Chicagoan. He had known the Obamas for several years, and saw them periodically at social gatherings. Impressed with Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, Bey sensed a “growing air of expectancy” about him. Continue reading

How Will Photographs Be Shared in the Future?


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A selection from Nick Marshall’s _e_scapes series.

How will people share photographs with their grandchildren in the 2060s?

Assuming we still have eyes and hands in the 2060s, this question might be important. Perhaps we’ll be sharing imagery straight to each other’s optic nerves. Or maybe millennials will be clutching faded mini lab prints, trudging across a post-apocalyptic landscape. I’m exaggerating of course, but the possibility exists that “sharing” a “photograph” is not a perennial human activity. It’s all about definitions.

Consider this: our histories, personal or otherwise, are affected by how we transmit them. At the risk of sounding paranoid, I think the conversion of physical things to binary numbers is worth investigating—because we might not fully appreciate the benefits and costs. In fact, when talking about photographs, I don’t think it’s useful to divide them along the fault lines of “analog versus digital” anymore. Instead, I’d like to suggest something more meaningful. Tactile and non-tactile. Isn’t that more relevant to what’s happening around us? It certainly opens up more intellectually fertile areas; a new way to shuffle an old deck of cards.

Continue reading

July Snapshots: Highlights from the Hillman Photography Initiative


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Bev Cover’s submission to A People’s History of Pittsburgh, which depicts an unnamed man standing in Point State Park across from Three Rivers Stadium in 1980. Click image to view original post.

Since the launch of the Hillman Photography Initiative this past May, I’ve delighted in seeing, reading, and listening to the fascinating submissions we’ve received for our various projects. From the thought-provoking responses to our monthly This Picture project, to the heart-warming photographs and stories contributed to A People’s History of Pittsburgh—our collective online photo album—I can’t get enough of seeing how visitors, users, and fellow photography lovers have reacted to our open call for submissions and comments.

In this blog post, the first in a monthly series, I call attention to some of the most compelling submissions and comments we received in the past month, and give you a look at what’s ahead for the Hillman Photography Initiative. As you scroll down, you might even find out that your photograph is featured. Continue reading