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
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.
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
Museum visitors browse some of the photobooks on display at The Sandbox: At Play with the Photobook installation during its opening event on May 3, 2014 © Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo: Josh Franzos.
Last Monday, The Sandbox: At Play with the Photobook, an installation that transformed the Coatroom Gallery into a reading room and public forum on the photobook, ended its three-month run at Carnegie Museum of Art. Facilitated by artists-in-residence Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar, who own Spaces Corners, a Pittsburgh bookshop dedicated to photography books, The Sandbox offered visitors an immersive look at the medium, while at the same time sharing the work of both emerging and established photographers who often operate at the intersection of experimental image-making and modern photography.
“There’s a density to these books,” says Panar, “each one is like a gallery exhibition.” He motions with his hand to a plywood table in the center of the Coatroom Gallery that displays rows of neatly ordered photobooks—most of which are little-known to the general public, but often highly coveted among photography enthusiasts keen on high-quality, limited-run publications that express the personality of a given photographer or moment in time. Salad Days, for example, a zine-like photobook that chronicles Panar’s own teenage years at a vocational high school in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, acts as a time capsule of American culture in the early 1990s. Shot with color film, the photographs in the book capture an awkward yet intimate view of adolescence that goes beyond Panar’s personal experience, with many of the images evoking an almost-tangible sense of time and place. Continue reading
Screenshot of the Hillman Photography Initiative website, launched April 2014
Ever since Carnegie Museum of Art launched the Hillman Photography Initiative earlier this year, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means for a museum to be truly experimental. When I began my research three years ago, the major premise of the Initiative was to create something totally new in the field of photography. On the other side of a successful launch, I now realize just how ambitious our goal was. But at the time, it felt more like an amorphous challenge, albeit one that had all my problem-solving neurons firing. As with any experiment, we didn’t have a clear understanding of how the Initiative would manifest or what form it would take. Now that the project is up and running, I find myself looking back at how the Initiative was realized and some of the things we’ve learned so far. Continue reading