The Photographic Relic - The Courtauld Institute of Art

The Photographic Relic

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American Art, Research Forum, Research Seminars

The Photographic Relic

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London

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Mathew Brady & Co., The Relics of Andersonville Prison (1866), 8 3⁄4 x 7 3/8 inches. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Albumen silver print from glass negative.

Speaker

  • Jennifer Raab - Associate Professor in the History of Art at Yale University

Organised by

  • Profesor David Peters Corbett - The Courtauld Institute of Art
Open to all, free admission

places are limited and will be available on a first-come first-served basis

Whittled wooden spoons, crude baking dishes, artillery shells, and soup bones form a strange, altar-like arrangement. Collected by Clara Barton from the notorious Confederate prison camp immediately after the American Civil War, these objects were then photographed by Mathew Brady’s studio. Widely circulated at the time, Relics of Andersonville Prison (1866) allows for a transformation by which pain is detached from the original site—the human body—and signified by inanimate things that retain a physical link to the past. This talk asks how the photograph itself might function as a relic, what the material and ontological significance of such a characterization could be, and how the relic as object and as photographic image provided a historically-specific means to contend with the pressing questions of finding, naming, and burying the dead of the Civil War.

Jennifer Raab is Associate Professor in the History of Art at Yale University. She specialises in American art and visual culture with particular interests in the history of photography, aesthetic theory, the history of science, and the relationship between literary and visual representation. Her first book, Frederic Church: The Art and Science of Detail (Yale University Press, 2015), examines the changing visual, cultural, and historical meaning of detail through the works of Frederic Church. Her current book project, tentatively titled Relics of War, considers how the work of photographing warfare—and specifically violence to the body—shaped the visual language and cultural context for post-Civil War photography in the United States.

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