The Harry Ransom Center has awarded over a dozen fellowships for 2021-2022 to The University of Texas at Austin faculty and graduate students through the Center’s new UT-Austin Fellowship program. The new fellows reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the Center’s collections and represent a wide range of departments, programs, and schools across the university. [Read more…] about Fellowships awarded to UT-Austin faculty and graduate students
In 2017, renowned portraitist Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) reflected on his four-decade career by stating simply, “my work has largely been based on representation of the human subject.” He explained that he has used photography to depict “subjects such as the black subject, or young people, who are not always—within the larger social conversation—thought of as having a rich interior life.” In addition to these poetic portraits of ordinary people, Bey has recently begun confronting central events in African American history, asking, “what kind of work can one make about something that happened decades ago?”
This question is vital to Bey’s newest project, Night Coming Tenderly, Black, completed in 2017. Bey has written, “Night Coming Tenderly, Black is a visual reimagining of the movement of fugitive slaves through the Cleveland and Hudson, Ohio landscapes as they approached Lake Erie and the final passage to freedom in Canada. Using both real and imagined sites, these landscape photographs seek to recreate the spatial and sensory experiences of those moving furtively through the darkness.”
Bey’s masterful printing methods work to convey the sensory experience he seeks to recreate. Initially photographing these landscapes by day, Bey printed them in the deep blacks and rich grays of night. The results allow the delicate tonal gradations and fine details to slowly emerge. Bey has described the darkness in these prints as “a metaphor for an enveloping physical darkness, a passage to liberation that was a protective cover for the escaping African American slaves.”
Using both real and imagined sites, these landscape photographs seek to recreate the spatial and sensory experiences of those moving furtively through the darkness.
A portfolio of ten photographs from Night Coming Tenderly, Black, published in 2018, has been acquired by the Harry Ransom Center in partnership with Black Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. This acquisition supports Black Studies’ goal of increasing the University’s collection of primary documents relating to cultures of the African Diaspora, and the Ransom Center’s aims of enriching its photography holdings by acquiring works by historically underrepresented artists.
This article appeared in the print edition of the Ransom Center Magazine (Spring 2020).
It was not the year we anticipated, hoped for, or a year we would want to repeat. The first rumblings of the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, escalated in February, and eventually erupted in our community in March when the Center closed its doors to in-person visits and staff began working remotely. What happened next was a natural shift to expanding the Center’s online presence throughout the year. [Read more…] about Highlights from an unprecedented year
During the hot summer months of 2020, especially in the weeks following the May 25th killing of George Floyd while in police custody, the Magnum Photos, Inc. Photography Collection was often on my mind. The scenes of protest that we witnessed, in countless cities across the United States and the world, reminded me of the iconic Civil Rights Movement images that Magnum’s photographers created. Burt Glinn in 1957 Little Rock, Eve Arnold at the 1961 Black Muslim rally, Danny Lyon at 1963 SNCC sit-ins, Leonard Freed at the 1963 March on Washington, Bruce Davidson at the 1965 Selma march: These images, and many more, documented the epic Black struggle to achieve greater social justice, a struggle that so obviously continues. [Read more…] about The camera as a weapon against racial injustice: Eli Reed’s Black In America
The Harry Ransom Center continues to monitor the local and global developments related to COVID-19, as well as changes in university guidelines.
Trends in photography are most noticeable when they’ve recently passed out of favor. Overhead shots of lattes or potted succulents may seem like good pictures, until suddenly they’re the only things you see on Instagram. Although trend turnover is accelerated by social media, popular photographic styles have followed the same general lifecycle since the 1840s. First, a new style is pioneered and picked up by early adopters. Soon it saturates the visual landscape and everyone’s doing it (remember duck face?). Critics step in to decry the overuse of the trend. Its popularity wanes, only to be replaced by another new style: the next good pictures. [Read more…] about What makes a good picture?