Artspace New Haven will display the exhibit “Collaboration: A Potential History of Photography” until Sept. 14.
The exhibit, according to Artspace’s website, is both a “research project and pedagogical tool that explores the event of photography.” This approach explores photography as an act of collaboration rather than an image or representation dictated by an individual photographer. The exhibition will culminate in a workshop held at Artspace from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 14, at which participants will be invited to engage with, contest and physically modify the exhibit.
The research project investigating the collaborative nature of photography was itself a collaborative effort across art and academia. The exhibition was conceived by two MacArthur-winning photographers — Wendy Ewald and Susan Meiselas — and three academics — Laura Wexler of Yale University, Ariella Azoulay of Brown University and Leigh Raiford of the University of California, Berkeley.
“Widening the field of view is very important for us as we move forward into this century of photographic practice,” said Wexler, a professor of American studies and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. “It’s become key to the ways in which humans communicate. We’re awash in images, and we need to understand the racial, sexual, feminist and colonial politics of them. All of these histories that have limited us thus far, but invite us now to repair and renew.”
According to Wexler, the “Collaboration” project began six years ago. Each member of the team had worked extensively with photography and had individually reached the conclusion that photographic history is taught as if there is a strict relationship between the photographer and subject.
“We wanted to reconceive how we understand the event of photography,” Wexler said. “We started working on the idea of collaboration. That means not only the nice conception of collaboration, but forced collaboration, or collaboration after the fact. We wanted to develop language for interrogating that.”
The exhibit’s manifesto, written collaboratively by the five organizers, expands upon these ideas. The text reads, “We believe undoing the Euro-American history of photography cannot be achieved by claiming everything, everywhere, for everyone. Its repertoire cannot be ignored, but it can be undermined, by locating multiple points of resistance in an expanding constellation.”
The team studied over 100 photographic projects created between 1860 and the present, eventually organizing these projects into eight themes such as “The photographed person was always there,” “When A Community is at Stake” and “Photography Preserves Sovereign History as Incomplete.”
The research project also features a cross-university course taught at both Yale and Brown by Wexler and Azoulay, respectively. Raiford is expected to teach a similar course at Berkeley in an upcoming semester.
Artspace New Haven is the latest location to feature the “Collaboration” exhibit, following exhibition in Providence, New York, Toronto and Philadelphia. Yet this venue is the first to include original works of art alongside the research project, all of which were conceived by local New Haven artists and community members: Monique Atherton, Thomas Breen, Ed Gendron, Daniel Eugene, Rachel Mozman Solano, Than Faroq and their respective collaborators.
Atherton’s contribution to the exhibition, entitled “Everyday Encounters,” can be seen before they step foot within Artspace. Vinyl prints of Atherton’s photos adorn the windows of the venue, visible to those passing on Orange Street and Crown Street. The photos reflect the actions of the viewer by depicting people walking through the streets of New Haven.
When Sarah Fritchey, curator at Artspace, approached Atherton about participating in the show, the two collaborated in the spirit of the exhibition to distill Atherton’s initial idea. Atherton noted that the process made her consider the power dynamics inherent in a photographic event.
“One of the great things about this whole project is that it shows the vastness of photography and all the ways it’s in our culture,” Atherton said. “There is always a give and take, push and pull between photographer and subject. That level of engagement and negotiation I found very compelling, because usually, either a subject needs a photograph, or I am looking to a subject for a specific photograph.”
Breen — exhibition contributor and a journalist for the New Haven Independent — asked the subjects of his articles to photograph him on the job. In a reflection published in the Independent, Breen wrote that in doing so, he “ceded a bit of [his] authorial control” to the community. Gendron contributed his photos of World War II reenactors. Faroq shared images from “Yemen: Unseen Beauty in Times of Destruction,” and Eugene addresses his own lived experience in his “DRAG/RACING” series.
The Sept. 14 closing event will include an artist’s talk featuring the six New Haven artists, followed by an interactive discussion led by the five scholars and photographers who initiated the research project. According to Wexler, the purpose of the workshop is to show that the project of reimagining history is ongoing and members of every community are valuable contributors to this dialogue.
Artspace New Haven is located at 50 Orange St.
Rianna Turner | firstname.lastname@example.org .