FOUNDATION FOR ADVANCEMENT IN CONSERVATION
Material Immaterial: Photographs in the 21st Century Symposium and Seminars
September 23-25, 2019, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Organized by Paul Messier and Monica Bravo
We are witnessing the historic transformation of photography from tangible objects—prints, plates, and negatives—to code: intangible bits, bytes, and pixels. As the tether between visual culture and the material world is recalibrated every day, a new form of literacy is required to draw meaning from physical media and its obsolescence. At the very moment when characterization and interpretation of the printed photograph is rapidly gaining ground, the momentum toward dematerialization raises the issue of the long-term relevance and sustainability of photography as a material fact. Does the physical photograph still matter today—as a source for teaching, learning, and scholarship—and will it matter into the future?
This symposium and elective seminars will provide insight into new tools for researching photographs with an emphasis on both the material and immaterial aspects of the medium. Conservation professionals will gain practical knowledge on new and existing techniques for characterizing prints and collections and how this information can be structured and visualized. Curators and art historians will benefit from exposure to the methods and techniques that underlie the contemporary approaches to material history. Together, the presentations and discussions are meant to demystify techniques adapted from seemingly exotic fields of artificial intelligence and data science and to cover some basic techniques for understanding and interpreting the physical and chemical makeup of a photographic print.
Support for this program comes from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Collaborative Workshops in Photograph Conservation, a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation Endowment for Professional Development.