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Public Talk: How Photography Achieved the Status of an Art

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120A Prinsep Street

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How Photography Achieved the Status of an Art
Speaker: Vicki Goldberg

The question of whether photography was art or wasn't was raised almost as soon as the medium was invented and continued to be disputed throughout the nineteenth century. Alfred Stieglitz and the PhotoSecession in America, as well as related movements in Europe, tried hard to place photography among the recognized arts in the early twentieth century, but widespread acceptance had to wait for decades. In the 1960s, a number of American artists who were certain the medium was not art, actually contributed a great deal, despite themselves, to photography's aesthetic elevation. Then in the 1970s, the market began to confer high status on photography through the first auctions and an increase in galleries showing photos because the number of collectors was increasing. Museums too, slowly, began to take notice. Yet today the ease and almost infinite number of photographs produced, including a surprising number that could be judged worthy by old standards and new though many are taken by people who are not professionals, has raised the old question in a new and unsettling context.

VICKI GOLDBERG is one of the leading voices in the field of photography criticism and wrote about photography for the New York Times for thirteen years. She lectures widely and continues to write on photography and the arts for various magazines. Her books,The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed Our Lives (Abbeville, 1993) and Margaret Bourke-White: A Biography (Harper and Row, 1986) were both named a “Best Book of the Year” by the American Library Association, and Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present (Univ. of New Mexico, 1988) was cited in the Wall Street Journal in 2006 as one of the five best of all books on photography. Her most recent book, Bruce Davidson, a biography, was published in 2016 by Prestel. She has also written the texts for many monographs; among the most recent, Sarah C. Butler, Frozen in Time (Glitterati, 2016), Charlotte Brooks (Catalog, The Davis Museum, Wellesley College), Cig Harvey, Gardening at Night (Schilt, 2015),. Her work has received numerous awards, including the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award, the Royal Society’s Dudley Johnston Award, and the Long Chen Cup (China). Light Matters: Writings on Photography(Aperture, 2005) is a collection of some of her best work over twenty-five years.

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