In "Photography and Modernism," Charles Palermo argues that there has been a tension in writing about photography, between a desire for presence—which brings along with it a type of ethical concern for the subjects photography pictures and a root in photography's contextual relation to its reference—and a condition of autonomy, which is associated with the intention of the author and which is, therefore, held to be a feature of photography's claim to art-status. The notion of the autonomous photographic image is often associated with Modernism, and the discourse of presence within critiques of Modernism. "Photography and Modernism" describes this tension in Postmodernist writing on photographer Walker Evans and writer James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and explains Agee's writing and Evans's photographs as responses to it.
Charles Palermo is director of Film and Media Studies and Associate Professor of Modern Art History at the College of William and Mary. He is an editor of nonsite.org and has written on Modernist painting, writing and photography. His latest work is Modernism and Authority: Picasso and His Milieux, Around 1900, forthcoming this year from University of California Press.
This Art History Lecture Series event is co-sponsored by the UIC Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.