This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Composita, the 'Mascot' of the Smith College Class of 1886: Remembering College Sisterhood and Social-Caste Expectations, Gender Norms
The Smith College Class of 1886's composite photograph promoted class unity, and conveyed eugenics-based, social-caste expectations. Digital rebuilding of the image reveals departures from the archive that express these women's perceived departure from social-caste/gender expectations.
"Composita," as she was nicknamed by the Smith College Class of 1886, was a composite portrait made by Charles O. Lovell by sequentially exposing 49 portraits of the graduating seniors to create a single image of the "average" appearance of the women. The portrait became a mascot for the group, which was among the first generation of women in the U.S.A. to gain access to a college education. Reproductions were sold as keepsakes and as literal and metaphorical symbols of unity.
As upper class New England women, they were expected to lead "proper" heteronormative lives, which involved marrying within their caste, supporting husbands, and maintaining the family's social profile. The women of Smith were reminded of their critical roles as mothers whose destiny included raising "well-bred" offspring to preserve their social caste in faithful adherence to the mission of the Positive Eugenics movement. Thus, Smith, along with other elite institutions such as Harvard University, fittingly adopted the composite photography - a technique invented by Francis Galton, founding father of eugenics - to underscore the importance of upholding the established social order.
This presentation examines the rhetorical functions of "Composita" as a means of expressing eugenics-based, social-caste expectations. However, "Composita" reveals points of non-conformity between its rhetoric and the techniques of its creation - which did not enjoy fidelity to the archive, as 21st-century Photoshop-enabled rebuilding of the image suggests. Rhetorically, "Composita" is a fitting mascot for the Smith College Class of 1886, which was conflicted about social-caste/gender/sexual-orientation expectations.
Personal Archives as Creative Catalyst: Photography, Collaboration, and Masquerade in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
This paper argues photographs in personal archives can be understood not only as souvenirs and historical documents but also as creative catalysts. Personal, historical archives can actively contribute to what we might otherwise classify as contemporary field research.
This paper examines the dynamic nature of personal archives in a contemporary context. Engaging with archives in the field has been indispensable to the research I have been conducting on masquerade arts and practices in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso since 2006. In addition to mining institutional archives, my research has benefitted from colleagues in Bobo-Dioulasso granting me entrée to their personal photographic archives. Access to them has imparted historical depth to the visual aspects of my research. And this engagement is not a one-way street, but an ongoing collaboration.
I contribute to personal archives by gifting prints of my field photographs to those depicted in them. In at least two instances colleagues have used my contributions to create new mask forms. Using these two case studies, I argue that photographs in personal archives can be understood not only as souvenirs and historical documents but also as creative catalysts. In 2008, colleagues requested I give them photographs of a particular mask from another town. They used my images to copy its form for their annual funerary mask dance. In 2016 a daytime mask that depicted a nighttime mask on its superstructure danced at the annual funeral celebration. The patron provided the sculptor two photographs of the nocturnal mask to use as a reference for the form—and I shot one of them! Such instances suggest that personal, historical archives can actively contribute to what we might otherwise categorize as contemporary field research.
Social fringes and visual memories: picturing dispossession in a Sydney's inner suburb
This paper will assess Sydney's inner suburb of Redfern as an effective example of visual urban memory. The case study will investigate the interaction between community members and the urban space as stakeholders in the preservation of cultural integrity.
This paper will assess Sydney's inner suburb of Redfern as an effective example of visual urban memory in the 1992 Conference Call photographic project by Brenda L. Croft.
Redfern has long represented a historic landmark for Indigenous cultural resistance located in the urbanised core of Australia's most populous city.
Strategies of cultural resilience in Australia's capital cities are insightful points of access to long-lasting histories of inequality, and visual representation stands as a compelling tool in the narrative of marginalisation determined by rapidly-changing urban landscapes. Once a powerful colonial weapon, the practice of photography has undergone a process of re-appropriation led by many cultural producers of Indigenous descent.
I will therefore resort to a contemporary photographic series to provide an example of how both physical and social outskirts of Australian metropolitan areas have turned into creative studios for the photographic gaze, and drastic changes implied by urban renewals have grown into material for new seductive visual narratives.
The paper will then discuss the effectiveness of contemporary photographs as visual testifiers of progressing histories of conflict. How can art merge into documentation and provide lucid representations of daily life of urban communities and which codes of aesthetic composition are suitable to present the social space as a lively protagonist will be key topics in this speech.
On the background to Redfern's chronicles, photography's visual rhetoric will hence be discussed as a vehicle to narrate the interaction between community members and the urban space as stakeholders in the preservation of cultural integrity.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.