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Camera Obscured: Photographic Documentation & the Public Museum

Tuer, Dot (1999) Camera Obscured: Photographic Documentation & the Public Museum. Canadian Art, 16 (1). pp. 46-53. ISSN 0825-3854


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Official URL: http://canadianart.ca


For seven years, Ingelevics travelled to museums in Europe and North America, sifting through hundreds of old glassplates and negatives that recorded the everyday and, sometimes, extraordinary activities of running a museum. The result of this extensive archeological quest is "Camera Obscured: Photographic Documentation and the Public Museum," an exhibition remarkable not only for the assembled wealth and breadth of images (eighty-nine in total), but for the way in which Ingelevics turns a site of critical inquiry — the museum — back upon itself. Dating from the eighteen-fifties to the nineteen-sixties, the photographs are grouped into subtle thematic sections. These range from behind-the-scenes glimpses of workers preparing natural-history dioramas to desolate gallery rooms filled with empty frames and sandbagged walls (awaiting the onslaught of war), to pre-1872 photographic collection records stored in the crumbling "guard books" of London's Albert and Victoria Museum. Despite the sophistication and eloquence of the images, the photographers who took them were considered technicians, not artists, often as anonymous as the unidentified night cleaners and preparatory workers they documented. Casting a critical eye towards this anonymity, Ingelevics devotes a thematic section of "Camera Obscured" to the work of British photographer Roger Fenton. Famous for the haunting portrayal of the Crimean War, in which a desolate landscape denuded of human traces becomes a metaphysical mediation on human carnage, Fenton's work is zealously catalogued and studied. Yet in the course of Ingelevics's research, he discovered Fenton's short-lived career as the first staff photographer at the British Museum, the photographs now languishing forgotten and neglected in the guard books of The Victoria and Albert Museum. For the exhibition, Ingelevics rephotographs a page from a guard book that contains a 1857 photograph by Fenton, and juxtaposes it against his 1855 The Valley of the Shadow of Death, calling into question the hierarchical ordering of images as well as peoples and things.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Art, Exhibitions, History, Museums, Photography
Divisions: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2016 20:12
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 19:30
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/1147

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