Afterimage, Vol. 44, no 1&2


Special Issue: Visual Studies Workshop

Essays & Features

The Geography of the Imagination: Thoughts on the Work of Rick McKee Hock

Keith F. Davis

Born in 1947, Rick McKee Hock was a prominent artist and educator, former director of exhibitions and program design at the George Eastman House (1978–2008), and exhibitions and events coordinator at the Visual Studies Workshop (VSW). He died on January 18, 2015. A memorial exhibition of his work, The Curious Reality of Images: Rick McKee Hock, was presented at VSW, September 4–December 19, 2015. To accompany this exhibition, VSW published two catalogs of his late work, Artists vs. Charlatans and Interrupted Bestiary (both 2015).

Rick might not have been “The World’s Most Interesting Man” of recent advertising renown, but he would have been on my short list for photography’s version of that title. Widely read, deeply thoughtful, and opinionated in an understated but firm way, he lived with a memorable combination of seriousness and wit. He had wide intellectual interests and a rich and sardonic sense of humor. Above all, he was devoted to the human need to create—the power of the imagination to reshape our understanding of reality. In this regard he was an eternal optimist, always excited about the possibility of new ways of seeing and thinking. 

Rick had broad interests in literature, art, and music. Music was a consistent topic of conversation for us over the decades. We regularly shared our current passions, with Rick’s list usually much more interesting and varied than mine. In the late 1970s, he introduced me to the significance of Lee Morgan and Eric Dolphy, Devo and Elvis Costello. Later, it was King Sunny Ade and Burning Spear, Bob Dylan, bluegrass, and much more. His music collection was already remarkable when we met in 1978, and it evolved steadily over the years, reflecting his voracious appetite for all things new and nourishing…

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Written in the Space of the Water: A Conversation with Roberley Bell

Rachel Adams

Roberley Bell was well traveled as a child, spending her childhood throughout Latin America and Southeast Asia, before returning to the United States to attend school. Earning her MFA at the State University of New York at Alfred, Bell went on to earn numerous grants and fellowships, including from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Pollock-Krasner fellowship, a summer Fulbright to the Netherlands, and a 2010 Senior Scholar Fulbright to Turkey. Bell’s 2010 Fulbright topic, “The City as the Site of Intervention,” resulted in a series of projects in public spaces. Her time in Turkey has greatly influenced her artistic practice, and she returned to Turkey in 2015 to continue her work. The project Still Visible, after Gezi (2016), which will be included in the exhibition Wanderlust that I am curating at the University at Buffalo (UB) Art Galleries (on view September 2017– January 2018), is a result of her 2015 trip.

Wanderlust, which I conceived of in 2012, has changed radically since its inception. Originally, I imagined it was going to be strictly an exhibition about walking, in which the walk was the actual work, with a lot of documentary materials. It has since morphed into a much larger project about artists who depart the studio and the confines of being inside to make work outside. Included are performative actions, investigations, mapping projects, and of course there are also walking works. The exhibition will begin with the work of Richard Long, Vito Acconci, Rosemarie Castoro, and Nancy Holt, move into Janine Antoni and Francis Alÿs, and then examine a younger generation of artists including Marie Lorenz, William Lamson, and Kim Beck, who have been inspired by some of these older artists….

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Snapshot Photography, Now and Then: Making, Sharing, and Liking Photographs at the Digital Frontier

Catherine Zuromskis

For over a century now, snapshot photography has been a means for everyday people to document the people, places, and things we want to remember most, and in the most idyllic light possible. These treasured images have long populated frames on our mantelpieces, desks, bulletin boards, and refrigerator doors. We have tucked them into wallets, curated them into family albums, and stashed them in shoeboxes and card files at the backs of our closets and under our beds. We keep the images close to us because they speak to us and for us, reinforcing our memories and histories and cultivating our senses of self, even though, in actuality, we may not look at them very often. They exist to be seen but also, on some level, just to exist: as relics and remnants, precious physical traces of our individual identities and histories. At least, this used to be the case. Now, fully immersed as we are in the digital age, our personal photos populate these physical places less and less frequently, and have moved increasingly to the domain of smartphones, digital storage clouds, and photosharing sites. These images still have lives and potent individual and social meanings, but theirs are lives lived in an ever more instantaneous, networked, and arguably image-glutted realm. This phenomenon suggests that snapshot photography has entered a new frontier, one that affects how photographs are made, how they are circulated, and perhaps most profoundly, how they exist (or don’t) as material traces of the past…

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In Media Res: A Conversation with Philip Mallory Jones

Tiffany E. Barber

Philip Mallory Jones’s practice spans several decades and mediums, including experimental video, graphic novels, and digital animation. After earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University in 1971, he began making and presenting new media art, joining the vast yet niche network of experimental video artists living in Western New York from the late 1960s to the mid ’80s. In 1990, he began incorporating digital elements into his innovative video practice, using mapping tools to extend the lives of his novels, his virtual environs, and his interests in cultural memory. On the occasion of his artist residency at the Visual Studies Workshop (VSW) in November 2015, Jones and I met to talk about his multidisciplinary practice, his time in Western New York, the role of research and oral history in his work, the relationship between text and image, and the art of collaboration. The following is a transcription of that conversation…

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Gaining Identity Through the Archive in Qiana Mestrich’s Hard to Place

Amanda Chestnut

Qiana Mestrich’s Hard to Place (2016) is an intimate family portrait that simultaneously explores the maternal, the home, and a sense of belonging, while addressing urgency in the loss of all of those things. In 2013, Mestrich acquired the adoption records of Joseph, a mixed-race child of Irish and Nigerian dissent who spent some of his childhood during the 1960s and ’70s living with his impoverished Irish-born birth mother in London. This photobook is a combination of those adoption records, photographs, and images of objects saved by Joseph over the years, as well as contemporary images from Mestrich’s own life. Mestrich was a speaker at the 2016 Photo- Bookworks Symposium at Visual Studies Workshop.

Perhaps Mestrich’s drive for answers comes from her own unclear and undefined family history. Her previous projects, in which she explored her personal history, have opened her to connecting small, personal narratives to broader stories in American history. Obtaining the adoption papers for Joseph exposed her to a world she previously knew little about…

Available online. Read here>

Truths and Methods: A Conversation with Michael A. Morris

Steve Cossman

Each piece within Michael A. Morris’s Hermeneutics Cycle (2012–16) speaks a compound dialect, a young, vibrant language of which Morris is a masterful progenitor. Harnessing the potential of light and sound waves, chemistry and code, poetry and symbolism, the work bears his own interpretation of a soul trapped between cinematic forms. These performative works do much more than shift the paradigms of media predecessor and successor; they speak directly to the habituations and presuppositions of the audience.

A traditional poet writes with paper and pen. The contemporary version opts for the digital work “doc.” In Morris’s case, it would appear as though nothing is off the table. Agnostic and unmarried to a single material or implement, he incorporates motion pictures in the form of scanned 35mm film stills, Playstation screen capture videos, handmade cyanotype emulsion, and digital interactive software that allows live manipulation. As a viewer and consumer, one has been preprogrammed to understand each component individually, making the familiar elements of experience entrancingly unfamiliar…

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“Ten articles, fifteen images, and this is the truth”: On Cristina De Middel’s Photobook Publishing

Hester Keijser

In 2014, Foreign Policy Magazine singled out Spanish photographer Cristina de Middel as a “Leading Global Thinker.” She currently has more than 20,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 10,000 people have “liked” her page on Facebook. Google turns up about 150,000 results (0.44 seconds) when you search for “Cristina de Middel” and about 37,800 results (0.43 seconds) when you add “Afronauts” to find her statistically most popular book, The Afronauts (2012). If you want to read an interview with her online—which I recommend doing, for she is refreshingly down to earth and speaks with uncommon clarity— you can choose from about 25,700 results. Having been invited by the Visual Studies Workshop (VSW) to reflect on de Middel’s prolific publishing practice in view of her participation in the VSW Photo- Bookworks Symposium in June 2016, I was faced with the question: What could I possibly add that wouldn’t be an entirely pointless exercise in creating more of the same, however brilliantly written?

With this slightly unnerving prospect, I trawled interviews and articles online, hitting mostly on the “known knowns.” Disappointed and also bored with the repetitive iconography of photojournalism, de Middel decided to employ the tools of fiction to convey a reality that felt closer to how the world manifests itself to us. Poly Spam (2014), de Middel’s staged portraits of the shady characters promising astronomical amounts of money and relating largerthan- life stories of illness, death, and misfortune in email scams, is an early example of her fictional approach. It was by accident that she stumbled on the actual history on which The Afronauts was based. Sparsely documented, this history ignited her imagination to retell the tale of the short-lived Zambian space program from 1964, engendered by the euphoria over the country’s newly gained independence. The book would jump-start her career, much to her own surprise, as she has expressed on numerous occasions…

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Narrative Artists’ Books and the Human Condition: The Work of Philip Zimmermann

Levi Sherman

Most artists attempt to balance the personal and societal, but the artist’s books of Philip Zimmermann, who spoke at Visual Studies Workshop’s 2016 Photo-Bookworks Symposium, achieve this balance with uncommon ease. For Zimmermann, considering the personal and social is not just a communication strategy—it is an end in itself. Zimmermann makes work about the relationship between self and society. Through personal experiences, historical incidents, and contemporary issues, he examines how knowledge and belief shape the way humans share the world with one another.

Zimmermann uses the narrative artist’s book especially effectively to expound the long history of the self and society. Five recent works—Celsius 233 (2015), Cruising Altitude (2011), Incident in Deseret (2014), Paradise Lost: An Allegory (2013), and Reaper (2015)—all integrate photographic images with a running text. Celsius 233 and Paradise Lost: An Allegory also include drawn imagery, each to different effect. Zimmermann often combines original (personal) content with appropriated (more universal) text and image, augmenting or reconfiguring the borrowed media to construct new meaning. He manipulates the imagery to create a cohesive visual vocabulary from disparate sources. Drawing on expertise in photomechanical color separations, his signature exaggerated halftone dots, color screens, and other devices clue the reader in to a media-critical mindset. One must consider how the aesthetics of commerce and warfare, propaganda and exoticism, and objectivity and sentimentality ultimately contribute to the repeated shortcomings of humanity that Zimmermann addresses…

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Online Features from the Issue

Essay: Gaining Identity Through the Archive in Qiana Mestrich’s Hard to Place

Read this essay

Video: Artists’ Books by Philip Zimmermann

View these videos

Portfolio: Monitored and Recorded by Luna Galassini

View this portfolio

Portfolio: Linha Vermelha (Red Line) by Inês Bonduki

View this portfolio

Inklight: Image by Keith Jognson; poem by Ralph Black

View this Inklight pairing


Current Issue, Vol. 45, nos. 2 & 3

Citizen by Michael Danner

Shame by Elissa Levy

An Empty Field by Elisabeth Tonnard

Vol. 45, no. 1

Beyond The Drama by Saara Mäntylä


Image Text Ithaca Symposium

Film as Verb: Documentary Imperfection in the Post-Factual Era by Gabrielle McNally

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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Vol. 45, no. 1

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