Photography +

The Photographic Universe: A Conference

The Photography Program in the School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons the New School for Design, The Aperture Foundation, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and The Shpilman Institute for Photography jointly present The Photographic Universe: A Conference. This two-day symposium brings together a range of leading photographers, scientists, theoreticians, historians, and philosophers from Parsons as well as other institutions, to reflect and discuss photography at a pivotal moment in its history.

The field of photography is constantly changing. What constitutes a ‘photographer’ or a ‘photograph’ has always been redefined by technological innovations, never more so than during the last two decades of the emerging digital revolution and the Internet. Quite possibly, photography is now at a similar place to where it was during its invention – a time when its cultural significance quickly grew due to fast and innovative technological development. The Photographic Universe: A Conference reflects on this current moment, with the pervasive digitalization of the medium and its speedy permeation into contemporary life. What is the importance of photography as a medium and a discipline? Prominent thinkers and practitioners discuss their roles in the expanding photographic field, evaluate its increasingly blurry relationship between art and life, and speculate on how photographic images will continue to change the way we see our world.

The conference features one-on-one conversations between individuals from disparate professional and research backgrounds. Each speaker contributes a ten-minute presentation on the subject of photography, followed by a twenty minute dialogue between the presenters.

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Speaker bios:

Susan Meiselas received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and her M.A. in visual education from Harvard University. Her first major photographic essay focused on the lives of women doing striptease at New England country fairs. She photographed the carnivals during three consecutive summers while teaching photography in the New York public schools. Carnival Strippers was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1976. A selection was installed at the Whitney Museum of Art in June 2000. The original book was revised and reprinted by the Whitney Museum and Steidl Verlag in 2003. Meiselas joined Magnum Photos in 1976 and has worked as a freelance photographer since then. She is best known for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America, which were published widely throughout the world. In 1981, Pantheon published her second monograph, Nicaragua, June 1978-July 1979 which was reprinted by Aperture in the fall 2008.

Meiselas has had one-woman exhibitions in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Her work is included in American and international collections. Honorary awards of recognition include: the Robert Capa Gold Medal for outstanding courage and reporting by the Overseas Press Club for her work in Nicaragua (1979); the Leica Award for Excellence (1982); the Engelhard Award from the Institute of Contemporary Art (1985); the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University for her coverage of Latin America (1994); the Hasselblad Foundation Photography prize (1994) and most recently, the Cornell Capa Infinity Award (2005). In 1992, she was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Chris Boot is the Executive Director of the Aperture Foundation. Boot has had a long and distinguished career in photography and photobook publishing. He worked for Magnum Photos from 1990-1998, including as Director of Magnum, London, and, later, Magnum, New York. Subsequently he held the position of Editorial Director at Phaidon Press from 1998 until 2000. Over the past eight years, his independent company Chris Boot Ltd published many acclaimed photobooks under ranging from contemporary titles that push the boundaries of the medium, to books that provide a fresh perspective on the history of photography.

The Chris Boot imprint includes two ICP Infinity Awards winners – Lodz Ghetto Album (2004) and Things as They Are: Photojournalism in Context Since 1955 (2005); the latter was co-published with Aperture. Other notable titles include History by Luc Delahaye, The World from My Front Porch by Larry Towell, Mexico and Parrworld by Martin Parr (both co-published with Aperture), Beaufort West by Mikhael Subotzky, We English by Simon Roberts, Georgian Spring: a Magnum Journal, and most recently Infidel by Tim Hetherington, Where Children Sleep by James Mollison and Maske by Phyllis Galembo. Boot is also the author and editor of Magnum Stories (Phaidon, 2004).


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