Afterimage Vol. 41, No. 1

Afterimage Vol. 41, No. 1


In addition to publishing Afterimage and artists’ books, Visual Studies Workshop (VSW) is a site for the production and discussion of media artworks. This special issue of Afterimage compiles primary documents stemming from the past year’s activities at VSW.

Afterimage readers will find a focus on primary sources in this issue. One reason for highlighting this perspective in this issue is our longstanding policy of not reviewing exhibitions, lectures, or conferences at VSW in order to avoid conflict with Afterimage’s integrity in terms of objective reportage and critique. Documents provided here come directly from the makers themselves. We believe that the direct access provided to these individuals complements our decades-long coverage of the visual arts, photography, independent film and video, new media, alternative publishing, and visual and cultural studies.

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Feature Essays

What Do Pictures Want?

Carla Williams

As I browsed the many publications on display in the Artbook bookstore, some provocative language began to jump out at me. Several titles posed questions or challenges about the nature of photography that reflect, if not a crisis, a restlessness, a collective reevaluation of what images are and what we should do with them. I was inspired to use those titles here to help punctuate my summation of this weekend’s conversations.

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House of Pictures: a Conversation with Susan Meiselas

Meredith Davenport

The following interview with Susan Meiselas took place at Visual Studies Workshop (VSW) in spring 2013. Meiselas spoke about the collaboration between Magnum Photos and VSW that brought ten photographers from the collective to photograph in Rochester for two weeks. The collaboration was part of a larger project called Postcards from America. Rochester is one of four US cities included in the ongoing project thus far.

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What Good Are the Critics? Or How to Dance About Photography

Adam Bell

We live in an exciting, but tumultuous, time for photobooks, and for books in general. It seems a given to refer to it as a “Golden Age.” That may be true, but I think this deserves a caveat. On the one hand, technology allows anyone to affordably print his or her own book via outlets like Blurb or Edition One. At the same time, venerable book dealers and publishers like Schaden are closing shop, and even Aperture struggles to make ends meet. While the internet has made possible new models of distribution for independent titles, Amazon continues to undercut profits from smaller booksellers and publishers. This should not be news to any of us here, and discussions about these issues have been occurring for some time, both online and in venues like this very conference.

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Unveiling Collar City: a Conversation with Brenda Ann Kenneally

Meredith Davenport

This interview with Brenda Ann Kenneally took place during her six-month residency at VSW. Kenneally came to VSW to build a series of books of photographs from her ongoing project Upstate Girls, in which she investigates the hallmarks of the permanent culture of class disparity in the US by documenting the lives of a group of working-class young women living on the same block in Troy, New York (near where Kenneally herself grew up). The city of Troy is one of the earliest centers of the American industrial revolution, and Kenneally incorporates the city’s history into her hard and intimate look at post-industrial life in Troy. Kenneally worked with students at VSW to build a historical timeline. She also worked with students at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to build a layered documentary website incorporating the videos, photographs, and historical documents she has made and collected.

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Artists’ Essays

A Documentary Practice . . . Of Sorts

Penelope Umbrico

…For the first time, I have been able to actually call myself a photographer as opposed to an artist who makes photo-based work. I wander this virtual space of the internet, looking for my subject. I move though various kinds of sites on the web to dig deeper into a subject in much the way I might if I were a documentary photographer wanting to take on a subject in the material world.

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Thoughts on the Book Failure: a Writer’s Life

Joe Milutis

I’ve been billing my book Failure: A Writer’s Life (2013) as a catalog of literary monstrosities. On one level, it is a loosely organized collection of vignettes and convolutes. What I mean by that is that it contains small snapshots of stories in the history of literary failure, small moments that one can reflect on. And then there are these larger convolutes, which are more unruly sheaves dealing in larger concepts. Even thinking back to writing my 2006 book Ether: The Nothing That Connects Everything, I never really wrote in chapters. It was very hard for me to send out “chapters” as excerpts or samples; in Ether there are four distinct parts, but they are too long to be called chapters, I think. In Failure, the sections range from two pages to upwards of sixty pages. So the currency of this book is not the chapter but these more unconventionally sized bits.

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Two Swimming Pools

Elisabeth Tonnard

In 2012, ABC Artists’ Books Cooperative, of which I was a member at the time, decided to realize a collaborative project in celebration of Ed Ruscha’s seventy-fifth birthday and of his contribution to the artist’s book. It was to be a set of books under the title ABCED (2012). These books would each be 8 x 5 inches in size and carry a title that was a past participle ending in “ed” (e.g., Borrowed, Collected, Derailed). They would be printed on demand. The contents of each book and the nature of the homage to Ruscha were left up to each individual artist. Eventually thirty-three books were created by twenty-four ABC artists.1

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Featured Portfolio Artists

The Civil Appetites by spurse with Megan Charland

Then and Now, Until by Sarah Cox

PST1: variations by Brian Murphy

Chasing After the Wind by Megan Sullivan

Buoyed by Alicia Taylor


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Image Text Ithaca Symposium

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Speculations and Inquiries on New Participatory Documentary Environments

Toward a Theory of Participatory New Media Documentary

Documentary Untethered, Documentary Becoming

Collaborative Documentary Practice: Histories, Theories, Practices


Silos by Andria Hickey and Matthew Chasney

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