Art Talk: Reframing Photographic Histories at the Harvard Art Museums

August 5, 2021
John Simmons, American, Window Writing, Chicago, 1969. Pigment print. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Fund for the Acquisition of Photographs, 2018.118. © John Simmons.

What makes a photograph an appropriate object for a teaching museum? How do objects invite us to consider and to activate their multiple social, economic, and political realities across time? How can an object encourage curators to acknowledge the impacts of—and to relinquish—our structures and voices of authority? In this talk, photography curator Makeda Best explores the history of photography collecting at Harvard and describes her efforts to foreground new perspectives, contexts of interpretation, and historical connections.

This talk is part of a series inspired by ReFrame, a museum-wide initiative to reimagine the function, role, and future of the university art museum. These talks examine difficult histories, foreground untold stories, and experiment with new approaches to the collections of the Harvard Art Museums, reflecting the concerns of our world today. 

Led by:
Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography, Division of Modern and Contemporary Art 

Works explored:
Brian Lanker, American, Eva Jessye, 1987–88. Gelatin silver print. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Schneider/Erdman Printer’s Proof Collection, partial gift, and partial purchase through the Margaret Fisher Fund, 2011.290. © Brian Lanker.

John Simmons, American, Window Writing, Chicago, 1969. Pigment print. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Fund for the Acquisition of Photographs, 2018.118. © John Simmons. 

Marion Post Wolcott, American, Cashiers Paying Off Cotton Pickers, Marcella Plantation, Mileston, Mississippi, 1939. Gelatin silver print. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Gift of Wolcott Community Management, 2.2002.1572.