Better know the collections: Photography

Carrie Robbins is a PhD Candidate in the History of Art. Her work with the Art and Artifact Collections during the 2009-10 academic year has been focused on the college’s photography collection, which includes works by such notable photographers as Eugène Atget, Lewis Hine, and André Kertész. About her work, Carrie writes:

I have been researching, cataloging, and digitally photographing over a thousand of the collection’s beautiful and impressive “art” photographs. The distinction between art photographs and photographs used for the study of art history, or travel photographs, or family photographs, etc. is one example of the challenges faced in cataloging a collection of roughly 15,000 photographs. Another challenge specific to photography is the problematic identification of its specific medium — gum bichromate, collodion, platinotype, albumen, etc. — which can be hard to determine without microscopic or chemical analysis. Fortunately, the Art and Artifact Collections supported my participation in a Photography Identification and Conservation workshop that has aided my ability to make educated guesses and has helped me to understand how difficult an authoritative identification is to make. With these challenges in mind, I become anxious about the ways in which the distinctions I make and the classifications I impose might limit or mischaracterize future study of these objects. So I try to be mindful of the authority my cataloging will have as part of our collection’s archive. Thankfully, the EmbARK database which we use to catalog each object, artist, donor, etc. offers a lot of flexibility relative to data entry, as well as ease of use, so that objects will be searchable in myriad ways.

Two of Carrie’s favorite works from the photography collections:

Hilary Newman, Brooklyn, New York, October 1989 (2009.22.5)

Hilary Newman, Brooklyn, New York, October 1989, Gelatin silver print (2009.22.5)

Edward Sheriff Curtis, Replastering a Paguage House (2009.26.17)

Edward Sheriff Curtis, Replastering a Paguage House, Photogravure (2009.26.17)