Imagining Everyday Life: Engagements with Vernacular Photography surveys the expansive field of vernacular photography, the vast archive of utilitarian images created for bureaucratic structures, commercial usage and personal commemoration, as opposed to elite aesthetic purposes. As a crucial extension of its ongoing investigation of vernacular photography, The Walther Collection has collaborated with key scholars and critical thinkers in the history of photography, women’s studies, queer theory, Africana studies and curatorial practice to interrogate vernacular’s theoretical limits, as well as to conduct case studies of a striking array of objects and images, many from the collection’s holdings.
From identification portraits of California migrant workers, physique photographs that circulated underground in queer communities, to one-of-a-kind commemorative military albums from Louisiana to Vietnam, these richly illustrated essays treat a breadth of material formats, social uses and shared communities, offering new ways to consider photography in relation to our political affiliations, personal agency and daily rituals. By reconsidering the multiple contexts and meanings of often-overlooked photographic practices, Imagining Everyday Life is a groundbreaking contribution- articulating the vital debates and complexities within an energizing new field.
It is critical in thinking about vernacular photography and the history of photography to recuperate or salvage objects whose backstories have often been lost or curtailed. These vernacular photographs are documents of social histories that would not otherwise be explored; they are key historical artifacts of suppressed or oppressed lives, and studying them is a way to reanimate their histories. Brian Wallis
Co-published with The Walther Collection, New York