For many photographers, memory plays a large role in the choice of subject and how that subject is interpreted. These images often become the only record of a moment passed, and therefore the one that is accepted as truth. But photographs and their negatives can be manipulated, raising questions about the intent of the visual choices offered by photographer, the experience of the viewer, and the question of control of our memories. If we were at the same place at the same time as the photographer, would we have the same experience of the event, and would we have taken the same image to remember it by? The answer is, most likely, no. So is our memory based on the photographer’s? This then begs the question of how many of our memories are made up of other people’s images—and how much input we really have on our own memories.
Encompassing various themes throughout the history of photography, including both intimate and informal portraits, perceptions of war, and our connections with urban scenes and landscapes, this exhibition examines our ideas about visual memory and how those memories are consumed and shared by viewers.
This exhibition has been the product of many hands, and I wish to thank Franz D. Hofer, PhD candidate in Cornell’s Department of History, for his enthusiasm and research for the exhibition texts in the section on War and Memory. Students from ARTH 2605—Contemporary Photography, taught by James Nisbet, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of the History of Art and the Society for the Humanities at Cornell, contributed wall labels for many of the individual works on view, providing their own insights about the subject of memory and one’s own individual perceptions.
We are also extremely grateful to the Atkinson Forum in American Studies for their support of the symposium, and to the Cornell Council for the Arts.
Nancy E. Green
The Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs