My Forenoon Sleep (Elizabeth Logan)

[Portrait of young woman], circa 1860s
Provenance unknown

Deborah Luster (American, b. 1951)
Tydia Powell, St. Gabriel, Louisiana, One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, 1/25, 7/12/2000
Tintype (photographic emulsion on aluminum plate)
Prothro Endowment in Photography

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The Image Wrought: Historical Photographic Approaches in the Digital Age

November 7, 2009 through January 17, 2010

In sharp contrast to the broad embrace of digital technology, a growing contingent of contemporary photographers are revisiting 19th-century photographic approaches. These photographers, whose aesthetic goals cannot be met through the seamless resolution of the pixel, are returning with increasing frequency to archaic processes such as the daguerreotype (which was almost extinct by 1860), the cyanotype, and the tintype. Wrought from silver, gold, mercury and iron, the resulting images have a strong physicality and presence and seek out the particular technical changes of these difficult and often unstable media. Drawn from the holdings of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, this exhibition of some 80 works (including period cameras and equipment to make the processes in question more transparent) makes use of the Center’s expansive photographic collections to present contemporary images alongside vintage examples of their 19th-century predecessors. These pairings allow us to examine how contemporary photographers view the past—some relying on an almost sentimental continuity, others contrasting with radically fresh imagery.

“The Image Wrought: Historical Photographic Approaches in the Digital Age" is a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. This exhibition is made possible in part by the Friends of the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the Doris Sloan Memorial Fund.