Storytellers: Jeff Wall and Edward S. Curtis
Shannon Egan, director, Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College
Although contemporary artist Jeff Wall may be best known for his engagement with the history of painting, several of his photographs compare in subject and style to those by early twentieth-century photographer Edward S. Curtis. The issues of factuality and staging in what Wall calls his “near documentary” style are central both to Curtis’ reputation and to Wall’s process. Wall’s photography, in its similarity to Curtis’ work, simultaneously contends with current socio-political issues of class and race while emphatically recalling photographic precedents. Likewise, Curtis’ carefully composed photographs interpret the fraught realities of Native cultures in order to re-picture an American past. Our speaker will discuss the two photographers’ analogous interests as well as how “artistic” photography is defined in both the early and late twentieth century.
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