The Photography Industry – Other Research

I’ve been doing a fair amount of digging to find other views and thoughts on the subject of curating and found some interesting articles and papers that I’ll refer to here, just by including snippets rather than any lengthy analysis of them.

The best resource was the book, Curationism, by David Balzer which was recommended to me by my Contextual Studies tutor. In it Balzer looks at the cult of the curator and how the role has changed over the years until the curator is now part of popular culture. One of the elements that I found interesting/amusing was how popular culture has allowed curators to become stars of the postinternet era and this has led to new job titles for the traditional role such as “Experience Designers” or “Content Farmers”.

Another useful resource was “The Future for Curators” (Edwards, 2007) which suggested that:

The role of the curator has changed and is likely to change in the future. Current issues

of postmodernism have affected their authority and status, by calling on new voices and

narratives. Criticisms continue to be levelled at curators for failing to change communication through display and to maintain subject-based expertise, while new technology constantly increases both the demand for and the supply of information. A survey of curatorial jobs in the Museums Journal confirms that the level of skills and knowledge required of curators has decreased.

Again, like Balzer, Edwards is looking at the way that curators have had to change because of the internet but whereas Balzer suggests that many have become multi-skilled Edwards suggests the opposite.

Another useful element was an interview (Fruchtnis, 2018) that David Campany gave in which he was asked “When you curate an exhibition, how do you select the images to include?” His lengthy reply is below

DC: It’s a very slow process. Often there are key images. For example with ‘Anonymes’ they were Jeff Wall’s 2002 image ‘Men Waiting’ and Walker Evans’s 1946 Fortune magazine piece ‘Labor Anonymous’.  I wanted to have those two works in the same exhibition space, in close proximity. A huge tableau photograph made for the gallery and an old magazine spread, both dealing with exactly the same subject matter (the daily work of anonymous citizens). Other images followed from that. Works are chosen with the exhibition space in mind. An exhibition is not a catalogue. An exhibition needs to work as an embodied experience. I think that very often curators of photography exhibitions forget this, and shows end up feeling like catalogues on the wall.  I think also that many contemporary shows of photography are too big. I like to work with just two or three rooms. Photographs demand a lot from us: they have a profound effect on our nervous systems, even if we’re only looking at them for a few seconds. Despite that fact that we might live our lives surrounded by photographs, we cannot look at many and keep our concentration.

I’ve included the lengthy answer here as I’m being heavily influenced by it in my  choosing my final portfolio for exhibition.

The BJP guide referenced below also has some great advice about curating though some of the comments were daunting when I was thinking about my own exhibition!

Ventzislavov (Ventzislavov, 2014) had some interesting ideas, particularly in suggesting that the curator should nowadays be considered an artist in their own right.

Similarly Kowalski (Kowalski, 2010) had some interesting points

The roots of activist curating can be found in Western Classical culture.  The prevalence of conceptual art at the end of the twentieth century, combined with the explicit denigration of physical craft by artists, created a void into which activist curators moved.  The curator’s role as educator and referee in artistic style wars needs to be reexamined in light of contemporary analyses of the nature of power.  Our understanding of the nexus of art-making, criticism, and curating is profoundly compromised by our skill in suppressing the many pious fictions upon which these activities are founded.  

Hansson (2016) is another who regards curators as being akin to conceptual artists as well as providing an insight into the future of curating through a series of respondents.

Finally a whole series of curator interviews can be found at https://photocurating.net/?page_id=30 including Susan Bright, Peter Galassi and others. They provide an interesting and varied series of viewpoints on curating as it moves forward.

This post isn’t intended to be a deep analysis, simply a list of some of the resources that I have been finding useful as I write my essay on curating



BJP, 2018, A guide to exhibiting your work, Available online at https://www.bjp-online.com/2018/03/exhibiting-your-work-three-curators/ Accessed 16th July 2018

Edwards, E.C., 2007. The Future for Curators. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 18(S1), pp.98–114. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/pia.290

Fruchtnis, K., 2018. David Campany – Photography is a Passport, Available online at http://www.urbanautica.com/interview/david-campany-photography-is-a-passport/221. Accessed 12th July 2018

Hansson, J., 2016, The curator as a conceptual artist, Available onine at https://www.theseus.fi/handle/10024/107324, Accessed 13th July 2018

Kowalski, Michael J. (2010). The Curatorial Muse. Contemporary Aesthetics. 9.

Ventzislavov, R. (2014), Idle Arts: Reconsidering the Curator. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 72: 83-93. doi:10.1111/jaac.12058 Accessed 22nd July 2018

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