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

Art Tracks: Visualizing the Stories and Lifespan of an Artwork


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Inside the digital media lab of Carnegie Museum of Art. Click to enlarge image. Photo: Jeffrey Inscho.

The Digital Media Lab at Carnegie Museum of Art is attempting to structure provenance and exhibition history data so curators, scholars, and software developers can create dynamic visualizations that answer impossible questions—and we’ve assembled a talented team to do it. But of course that’s a fairly simplified explanation of the project. To better understand exactly what we are looking to accomplish, I need to delve deeper. 

For instance, have you ever wondered how artworks arrive at a museum? I’m not talking about the physical logistics of art object transportation, but rather the journey over time and space that artworks make to arrive at a particular museum at a particular moment in time? 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

New Hire: Tracey Berg-Fulton


new-hire_tracey-berg-fulton_cmoa-blog_450pWhat is your official title, and what are some of your general responsibilities?

My official title is Collections Database Associate. I am working on a new project called Art Tracks that will hopefully provide our provenance data as linked open data. At this point in the project, my responsibilities are mainly cleaning up database records, creating new records where needed, checking facts, and working with our project developer to figure out how to get the best data out of our collections database. My role is pretty exciting, in that I get to be kind of a bridge between the curatorial department, the registrar’s department, and the technology department. I have a background in registration, but I have a totally not secret love of technology and the net, so this is a great fit for me, and I feel like I’ve learned a ton!

What were you doing before joining us at CMOA?

Immediately before coming to CMOA, I was the database administrator at a tech startup called Shoefitr here in Pittsburgh. Before Shoefitr, I was the Registrar at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Prior to that, I was a contract registrar, working with private clients, small galleries, and corporate clients to do, well, basically anything that needed to be done. Art shipping, painting, installing, condition reporting, toilet repair (yes, really), I could do it. If we want to take a trip in the Way Back Machine, I got my museum start at CMOA. I was here as a volunteer in the Decorative Arts department in 2008 after I moved back to the US from Scotland, and then worked in the Technology department as an imaging technician before I headed out to Oklahoma to start my registrarial career. 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