In the Opatrny Gallery, Floor 2L
This exhibition assembles a selection of photobooks from the Cornell Library that function as protests, from passionate cries for social justice to resistance to the impositions of everyday life. Diverging from the explicit imagery and political messaging typical of protest photography, which tends to emphasize collective trauma over individual resolve, this exhibition foregrounds the fundamentally personal and passionate roots of dissent.
Photobooks are unique among visual media. Through their materiality, design, sequencing, incorporation of text, and experiential qualities—particularly the solitariness of viewing and reading that they require—they encourage a dialogue between author and audience that is both extended and multisensory. Unlike with the thousands of protest images published on social media, delivered to desensitized eyes via algorithmic sequences and habitual scrolling, those in photobooks are received intimately and with empathy as we deliver ourselves to images, texts, and objects that hold passionate stories. Unfolding the narratives with our own hands, we wonder: What drove these people to protest? How were their lives impacted? Conventional media images provide only a snapshot of a given protest, usually considered as a social uprising; photobooks allow for a profound engagement with these motivations. Concentrating on the individual dissenter—the author—rather than the movement further awakens our consciousness and empathy as viewers, and re-sensitizes us to the emotions and realities that drive social resistance.
Resistance Is Personal: The Photobook as Protest was curated by the students in the Fall 2021 Curatorial Practicum (ARTH 4110/6010), co-taught by Kate Addleman-Frankel, the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography, and Andrew Moisey, Assistant Professor and Frederick M. Rosevear ’64 and Joyce A. Yelencsics Rosevear ’65 Faculty Fellow in the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies.
The exhibition is supported by the Melissa Rubel ’85 and Matthew Rubel Family Fund for Photography, Education, and Engagement at Cornell University.