In the 1980s, the United States general public learned and formulated opinions about human rights conflicts in Nicaragua largely through photography. To counter misperceptions perpetuated by these images, in 1984, a group of photographers and critics organized The Nicaragua Media Project. The exhibition relied on two primary strategies: postmodernism’s critique of representation and so-called oppositional images. These seemingly antithetical approaches are taken up here to both enlarge the global scope and function of postmodernism’s critique of representation and consider some of its limitations, especially as a model for addressing photography’s potential to forge international solidarity in affective and visual terms.
Introduction to "Beyond the Pictures Generation," a special issue of photographies, edited by Heather Diack and Erina Duganne (September 2017).
This special issue, entitled "Beyond the Pictures Generation," reassesses critical models for 1980s photography by addressing international human rights conflicts for which Cold War realities were paramount and art world ambivalence was not a viable option.
In Photography & Culture 6, no. 3 (November 2013): 303-324.
In this essay, I take up the question of why, despite Lyndon Baines Johnson’s great interest in photography, his determination to harness the medium to sway public perceptions about his presidency could only be realized retrospectively. As part of this investigation, I first consider how Johnson sought to use photography to shape the historical legacy of his presidency and the extent to which his preoccupation with his outward appearance as well as his desire to conduct his governance in private influenced and even impeded that photographic legacy. To further come to terms with the limitations of Johnson’s approach to the photography of his presidency, I then turn to two iconic photographs that are frequently evoked when thinking historically about Johnson’s presidency. I argue that their historical significance depends less on their representation of Johnson and more on their role in constructing a collective sense of American public identity, especially in relation to the Vietnam War, one of the most contentious aspects of Johnson’s presidency.
An investigation into the kinds of meanings that photographic portraits of black Civil War soldiers had at the time of their making as well as some of the challenges that such a recovery poses for historians today.