It's been a busy few weeks for Making Photography Matter. In mid-November I learned that the Visual Communication division of the National Communication Association named it "Outstanding Book of the Year." This is an especially meaningful honor because the Visual Comm division was the very first thing I joined when I became a member of NCA twenty years ago. For them to honor my work all these years later makes me feel really good (and, truth be told, really old). Thank you, Vis Comm!
In other MPM news, last week I was interviewed by communication/rhetoric scholar Karma Chavez on Madison radio station WORT's program "A Public Affair." It was a fun, wide-ranging conversation about several topics, including Civil War photography, rhetorical methods, why 19th century Americans were obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, and what my students have taught me about selfies. You can listen to the interview here.
A couple of weeks ago, the good folks at the Chicago Humanities Festival announced their lineup for the 2015 event, which will take place from Oct. 24 through Nov. 8. And I'm thrilled to be on it! The theme of this year's festival is "Citizens."
My talk, "A Presidency in Pictures," will be based in part on my book project in progress, which studies moments of technological transformation in the history of photography through the lens of the American presidency. I was invited to speak as part of the CHF's collaboration with the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois.
Here's how the Chicago Humanities Festival describes its mission: "The Chicago Humanities Festival is devoted to making the humanities a vital and vibrant ingredient of daily life. We believe that access to cultural, artistic and educational opportunities is a necessary element for a healthy and robust civic environment." Amen to that!
Not only is it a great honor to be able to speak and to represent my campus at this event, but I've heard from several folks that the CHF audiences are simply the best around. I can't wait.
You can find out more about the Nov. 1 event here.
The proofs of Making Photography Matter are being finalized as I write this, and at the end of next week I'm meeting with the marketing folks at University of Illinois Press to discuss the book's May publication. This book feels like it took such a long time to appear. There are a whole host of reasons for that, including the fact that guess what? Life happens while you're writing books! But it's also the case that this book started out as one thing and then became something else entirely. I'll let my 2007 self explain, as I put it in my blog first efforts during my sabbatical year at Vanderbilt University:
ka-BOOM!The sound you just heard is the sound of my book blowing up.
Thanks to two really useful seminar sessions with my fellow fellows, over the past week or so the project has exploded in scary, messy, and (I hope) potentially compelling ways. I have sensed for a while (but not wanted to accept) that I need to add an entirely new chapter as a kind of "prequel" to the time period I'm discussing (1890s to 1930s). After today's discussion I'm convinced that this is absolutely necessary. I'm also more convinced than ever that this is as much a book about deliberation, judgment, and agency as it is a book about photography. Which feels very, very right to me.
Guess this is what sabbatical is for.
I was lucky to have that sabbatical year at the Robert Penn Warren Center in Nashville. It made me smarter. It made me think bigger. And it made me more tolerant of ambiguity. And now, finally, the scary mess that emerged from that productive year of thinking and talking and writing has, I hope, been wrestled/cajoled/loved/worked/reworked into something compelling about photography and agency.
While retooling this web site recently, I decided to add a blog. I'm no stranger to the form; I kept a regular blog from 2006-2010, and it's still available here (for now, at least). But then Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter took over and, well, you know how it goes. Sorry blog, I've moved on.
But now I'm back, for a few reasons. First, Making Photography Matter is coming out in a few months, and I plan to do a few things here to encourage readers to check it out. So stay tuned for that.
In addition, 2015 will be an intensive research year for me. I'll be spending most of it gathering archival material for my new project, The Camera Politic. The blog will be a fun place to park some of those discoveries and reflect upon them.
Finally, I think it might be fun to revisit some of my old blog posts in a search for some greatest hits. I can't promise that much will stand the test of time, but if I unearth some goodies I will post them here to give them new life.
Research news, commentary on visual politics, and a few old blog posts given new life.