Reinventing Documentary Photography in the 1970s

March 23-24, 2017

Participants include Katherine Bussard, David Campany, Jill Dawsey, Heather Diack, Nicholas Frobes-Cross, David Hartt, Solveig Nelson, Jorge Ribalta, Robert Slifkin, and Siona Wilson.

Organized by Sarah Miller and Drew Sawyer, in collaboration with the Zimmerli Museum and the Developing Room, this interdisciplinary symposium seeks to question standard narratives around the reemergence of documentary photography during that tumultuous decade. It brings together a range of international art historians and curators, who have rarely had to opportunity to exchange research and ideas on this topic. Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Center for Cultural Analysis.

In the United States, scholarship on documentary during the long 1970s has tended to focus on two poles: the curatorial practices of John Szarkowski at The Museum of Modern Art and those artists that he supported, and Allan Sekula’s and Martha Rosler’s strident critiques of modernism’s embrace of the genre. Taking Jorge Ribalta’s recent exhibition, Not Yet. On the Reinvention of Documentary and the Critique of Modernism, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid as a launching point, the symposium will widen the conversation to explore the multiple ways that documentary was rethought and contested in the 1970s, in both critical discourse and artistic practice. This symposium will bring together art historians and curators from Europe, who have been rewriting these histories over the past several years, with emerging and established art historians in the United States, who are only just beginning to look into these diverse practices. The symposium aims to propel new scholarship on these artistic practices and the critical discourses they generated, and provide a broader context for American histories of documentary during the period.


Thursday, March 23
5:00 - 6:00pm
Reception in Zimmerli Museum Lobby

Jorge Ribalta - Keynote Talk: Not yet. On the Reinvention of Documentary and the Critique of Modernism

Friday, March 24

10:00 - 10:50am
Huffa Frobes Cross: Various Representational Tasks: The Documentary Strategies of Martha Rosler, Fred Lonidier, Phel Steinmetz and Allan Sekula, 1972-1976
David Campany: Studying Tigers in the Zoo

Short Break

Jill Dawsey: TBA
Siona Wilson: TBA
Solveig Nelson: On the Legacies of Civil Rights Reportage in Early Video Art of the 60s- and 70s, from ‘street tapes’ to Multi-Channel Video Performances

Discussion of all morning speakers

Lunch (at museum for speakers, and at restaurants nearby for attendees)

Robert Slifkin: A Scandal in Bohemia: Forensics, Postmodern Photography, and the Ends of Liberalism
Katherine Bussard: TBA
Heather Diack: Between States

Discussion of afternoon speakers


David Hartt: Artist’s talk & facilitated discussion