Exhibition examines the uses of photography to document, record, and identify individuals

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Exhibition examines the uses of photography to document, record, and identify individuals
Martina Bacigalupo, Gulu Real Art Studio, 2011–12. Courtesy the artist and The Walther Collection.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Walther Collection presents The Shadow Archive: An Investigation into Vernacular Portrait Photography, an exhibition that examines the uses of photography to document, record, and identify individuals from the 1850s to the present. The Shadow Archive inaugurates The Walther Collection’s multi-year series of exhibitions focused on the history of vernacular photography—utilitarian imagery made primarily for commercial or personal purposes, rather than aesthetic ones. Entitled “Imagining Everyday Life: Aspects of Vernacular Photography,” the series considers the social and historical significance of non-fine-art photography in a wide range of applications.

“Imagining Everyday Life: Aspects of Vernacular Photography” includes five exhibitions in New York and an international scholarly symposium in Fall 2018, culminating in May 2019 with a comprehensive exhibition organized by Brian Wallis at The Walther Collection in Neu-Ulm, Germany, and accompanied by a catalogue co-published with Steidl.

The inaugural exhibition, The Shadow Archive, shows that nineteenth-century daguerreotypes of families to recent images of migrant farm workers, identification photographs have been used to sort, shape, segregate, and select subjects based on occupation, social group, body type, or political affiliation. Covering a wide range of historical and contemporary objects, The Shadow Archive includes a frame of sixteen tintypes from the 1860s of family members united to form a visual genealogy; a group of mug shots drawn from an archive of thousands of similar images from California prisons in the 1890s; a sequence of views of a French medical patient demonstrating human emotions while under hypnosis; a collection of eighty near-identical ID badges from a World War II-era manufacturing plant; a roll of dozens of 1980s yearbook portraits from a Midwestern high school; and a series of recent color passport-style portraits from a Ugandan studio, all with the faces cut out. This exhibition asks: can such utilitarian images be considered portraits? What do they reveal of the sitters and their social roles? And what do they tell us about the significance of photography and representation today?

Taken for a wide variety of purposes, these photographs place little value in originality, variety, or aesthetic niceties of photographic style. Rather, they deliberately replicate, and in fact rely on, the conventions of the studio portrait genre. When applied to bureaucratic archives, such photographs establish an inventory of nearly identical pictures that can be compared to one another for identification within a state or corporate organization—as with mug shots in the penal system or passport photos for immigration. The social and even political needs of the sitters—barely discernible signs of resistance, made evident through slight changes of pose or gesture—come to mean more in such contexts than the motives of the photographers.

These pictures defy the bourgeois definition of the portrait as an honorific presentation or a window into the soul. Instead, they are more like fragments from what theorist and photographer Allan Sekula called “the shadow archive.” By this, Sekula meant the entire social field of human representations, comprising both heroes and deviants, within which every portrait takes its place as part of a moral hierarchy. The various, mostly unidentified individuals represented in these portraits, often in relation to their labor and employment, take up positions that are ratified or confirmed by their documentation in photography. Such serialized images lack meaning individually, and assume relevance only in relation to one another, and to the shadow archive.

Today's News

December 8, 2017

Donald Trump beats North Korea's Kim Jong-Un, sort of, at Art Basel in Miami Beach

Saudi crown prince bought $450 mn Da Vinci: report

The Oriental rug market viewed as a pyramid

New species of 'marsupial lion' found in Australia

Walker Art Gallery displays Lowry painting of the River Mersey and Three Graces

Tim Van Laere Gallery presents a solo exhibition of Franz West

Sotheby's to offer Italian, French, Spanish, German & British drawings spanning 500 years of Western art

$18M Alloy Ferrari LWB Cal Spider Competizione Leads RM Sotheby's ICONS Sale

Ancient Mediterranean Collection given new gallery space, visibility at Newark Museum

Naples pizza-making wins UNESCO heritage status

Illustrator Quentin Blake holds auction for 'overlooked' art

Exhibition examines the uses of photography to document, record, and identify individuals

In greying east Germany, a community for sale

MFAH announces the Jeanie Kilroy Wilson Endowment for the Curator of American Painting and Sculpture

New exhibition at SMK delves into the relationship between artistic creation and institutional support

Exhibition at the India House Art Gallery in Pune, India features Alyssia Lazin, Pavel Kapic and Arti Kirloskar

Sotheby's Important Watches totals $7.6 million: Robust online buying drives results

Christie's New York Magnificent Jewels totals $62,592,750

Aaron Angell presents new ceramic sculpture, inflatables, and painting at Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art

Cortesi Gallery opens Serena Maisto's first solo show in London

Solo exhibition of Nikita Makarov opens at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art

National YoungArts Foundation announces Daniel Arsham Fellowship for Early Career Visual Artists

BMW Art Journey artist shortlist announced during Art Basel in Miami Beach

Cochrane gift endows painting conservatorship

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful