Killed Negatives: Study Day

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    Russell Lee, Untitled photo, possibly related to: Mr. Tronson, farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota, August 1937, digital print from scanned 35mm b&w negative Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, LC-DIG-fsa-8a22121]

Past Event

This event was on Sat 23 Jun 2018, 2pm – 6pm

Documentary photographs, as the final outcomes of photographers’ interpretations, are an embodiment of social relations between the photographer, the subjects, editors, mass media and historians.

This event takes a close look at archive exhibition Killed Negatives: Unseen Images of 1930s America , which looks beneath the surface of the famous Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographic commissions which took place during the American Great Depression in the 1930s.

Theorist John Roberts, historian of American Modernism Stephanie Schwartz, curators Drew Johnson and David Campany, alongside exhibition curators, Nayia Yiakoumaki from Whitechapel Gallery and Alona Pardo from the Barbican, respond to Killed Negatives and further discuss the ontology of documentary photography and its effectiveness today, as well as the relevance of the original censoring of the ‘killed negatives’ in today’s post truth era. Chaired by Mercedes Vicente.

In collaboration with the Barbican Centre, to coincide with the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing.


14.00                  Welcome and Introduction

Killed Negatives: Introducing Unseen Images of 1930s America

Nayia Yiakoumaki, Curator Archive, Whitechapel Gallery

14.30-15.30         Session 1

The Social Ontology of Photography

John Roberts, Professor of Art and Aesthetics, University of Wolverhampton

Stephanie Schwartz, Lecturer, History of Art, University College London

Discussion chaired by Mercedes Vicente, Director Education and Public Programmes, Whitechapel Gallery

15.30-16.00         Coffee Break

16.00-17.00         Session 2

Dorothea Lange: Case Study

David Campany, Writer, Curator and Artist

Drew Johnson, Curator of Photography & Visual Culture at Oakland Museum of California

Discussion chaired by Alona Pardo, Curator, Barbican

17.00-18.00         Closing Remarks and Q&A

About the Speakers

David Campany is a writer and curator. His recent books include So Present, So Invisible: Conversations with Photographers (2018), The Still Point of the Turning Word: between Film and Photography (2017), A Handful of Dust (2015), and Walker Evans: the Magazine work (2013).

Drew Heath Johnson is Curator of Photography & Visual Culture at the Oakland Museum of California, where he has worked since 1989.  His many exhibitions at the Museum include Silver & Gold: Cased Images of the California Gold Rush, Ansel Adams: Inspiration and Influence, Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California and Capturing Light: Masterpieces of California Photography, 1850 – 2000 which toured North and South America.  He is the recipient of a California Book Award for the catalog of Capturing Light.  A native Californian, he has been a student of photography since purchasing his first daguerreotype at the age of fourteen.

Alona Pardo is a Curator at Barbican Art Gallery, London. She has curated a number of exhibitions and publications, including most recently Another Kind if Life: Photography on the Margins (2018), Richard Mosse: Incoming (2017), Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers (with Martin Parr, 2016) and Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age (with Elias Redstone, 2014). She has contributed widely to art magazines and books, including Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture by the contemporary photographer Nicolas Grospierre (2016) and Vitamin P3: New Perspectives in Painting (2016).

John Roberts is Professor Art & Aesthetics at the University of Wolverhampton, and the author of a number books, including: The Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade (Verso, 2007), The Necessity of Errors (Verso  2011), Photography and its Violations (Columbia University Press, 2014), Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde (Verso, 2015),  and Thoughts on an Index Not Freely Given (Zero Books, 2016). His The Reasoning of Unreason: Universalism, Capitalism and Disenlightenment is to be published by Bloomsbury later this summer.

Stephanie Schwartz is a Lecturer in History of Art at University College London. She is currently completing a book-length study of Walker Evans’s 1933 Cuba portfolio. Her writing has appeared in October, Oxford Art Journal and ARTMargins. She was recently awarded a Creative Capital Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant to write ‘Martha Rosler: Seeing the Screen’, an essay on the politics of disclosure. Stephanie is also working on a related project on protest photography. Her initial consideration of subject appeared in her Tate Modern In Focus study of Allan Sekula’s Waiting for Tear Gas [White Globe to Black] (1999-2000).

Mercedes Vicente is a curator, writer and researcher and interim Director of Education and Public Programmes at Whitechapel Gallery.  An AHRC funded-PhD graduate at the Royal College of Art Critical Writing, Vicente’s thesis on New Zealand video artist Darcy Lange focused on issues of labour, education and activism. Prior to this, Vicente was Curator of Contemporary Art and Darcy Lange Curator-at-Large at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand. She holds a masters’ degree in Curatorial Studies from Bard College and was Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. Vicente has curated numerous exhibitions at institutions such as Tate Modern, Ikon Gallery, Camera Austria, Cabinet (New York), Yale University, EACC (Spain) and NTU CCA Singapore. Her extensive writing and editorial credits include books, exhibition catalogues and art magazines. She is the editor of Darcy Lange: Study of an Artist at Work co-published by Govett-Brewster and Ikon Gallery.

Nayia Yiakoumaki is Curator Archive Gallery, Head of Curatorial Studies and Project Manager NEON Curatorial Exchange at Whitechapel Gallery, where she develops an innovative programme of research exhibitions related to the use of archives as a curatorial resource. Yiakoumaki was Director of Research and International Network at the Athens Biennale organisation (2016–2017) and annually devises the NEON Curatorial Exchange & Award, an initiative that fosters professional relationships for emerging curators, founded by NEON organization and delivered by the Whitechapel Gallery. She has conceived a number of successful exhibitions and commissions, including John Latham: Anarchive (2010) co-curated with Antony Hudek and Athanasios Velios, Rothko in Britain (2012), Aspen Magazine: 1965-1971 (2012), Black Eyes & Lemonade: Curating Popular Art (2013), Stephen Willats: Concerning Our Present Way of Living (2014), Intellectual Barbarians: The Kibbo Kift Kindred (2015-2016), Imprint 93 (2016), Guerrilla Girls: Is it even worse in Europe? (2016-2017), and the current exhibition Killed Negatives: Unseen Images of 1930s America.