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UBIQUITY: Photography’s Multitudes

April 26, 2018 - April 27, 2018
05:30 PM - 05:30 PM
Humanities Center Conference Room D

According to Ariella Azoulay , we “live in an era in which it is difficult to conceive of even a single human activity that does not use photography, or at least provide an opportunity for it to be deployed in the past, present, or future.” Azoulay is far from alone in this assessment. Since its introduction in the nineteenth century, critics, historians, and theorists of photography from Baudelaire and Benjamin to Susan Sontag and Christopher Pinney have identified the photographic image with a pervasive conquest of the world, due to the medium’s ever-increasing speed of production, dissemination, and reuse. Both an unavoidable aspect of contemporary life and a topic of increasing importance to the study and practice of photography, the ubiquity of the image presents an essential if also unwieldy issue that warrants critical and historical investigation. How do theories and attendant anxieties around the ubiquity of the image—with us since photography’s beginning, to be sure—manifest in social and technical practice, as well as in representation and critique? In a larger frame, how does the once theological notion of ubiquity—whether of images, or of forms of production, consumption, and computation—betray or reveal a photographic logic, particularly a logic founded on the accumulation of capital in the modern and contemporary eras?

A symposium at the Humanities Center of the University of Rochester, Ubiquity: Photography’s Multitudes aims to address both timely and perennial accounts of the pervasiveness of images in the photographic era. Taking place at the epicenter of Kodak—and thus within a modern urban environment and university campus built on photographic ubiquity—the symposium will convene an intentionally wide range of perspectives, problems, and methodologies. We seek participants from diverse fields—including but not limited to art history, media and visual studies, digital culture, science and technology studies, and the history of photography—to address issues in the orbit of photographic ubiquity while also collectively venturing into that term’s larger, heretofore unmapped history. The organizers aim to host presentations on a variety of topics that span the analog and the digital. Sample topics include: early photography and industrial capitalism; colonialism and the worldwide distribution of images; ecology, toxicity, and technical production; critical theories of media saturation and its counterpart of technological obsolescence; the spread of vernacular practice in local, global, and virtual spheres; photography’s centrality to theories of political subjectivity; among many others.

Please submit a CV and 250-word abstract to by November 15, 2017. Thanks to the support of the Humanities Center at the University of Rochester, participants will receive stipends toward the costs of travel and lodging. Applicants will be notified of decisions by December 31, 2017


Thursday, April 26, 5:30–7:00pm
Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library
Imperial Rights and the Origins of PhotographyAriella Azoulay, Brown University
Professor of Modern Culture and Media and the Department of Comparative Literature, film essayist and independent curator of archives and exhibitions
Friday, April 27, 9am–5:45pm
Conference Room D, Humanities Center, 202 Rush Rhees Library
Open to the public, pre-registration at
[Breakfast] — 9–9:45am
I: The Conquest of Ubiquity — 9:45–11:45am
Developing the Future: Technological Determinism and 19th-Century French Photography
Emily Doucet, University of Toronto
Photographic Profusion at the World’s Columbian Exposition
Annie Rudd, University of Calgary
International Picture Language, the Attention Economy and the Market in Images
Michelle Henning, University of West London
[Lunch] — 11:45am–1:00pm
II: Materials in Transit — 1:00–2:50pm
‘Things Are Partial, Yet Organic’: An Ecomaterialist Reading of Paul Géniaux’s Salt Harvester
Maura Coughlin, Bryant University
Managing Time: Non-human Animal Labor in the History of Imaging Technology
Joseph Moore, The City College New York (CUNY)
Film of the Skin: Walead Beshty’s Travel Pictures
Niharika Dinkar, Boise State University
[Coffee & Tea]
III: Power & Pervasiveness — 3:05–5:45pm
Evidence of Feeling: Race, Police Violence, and the Limits of Documentation
Catherine Zuromskis, Rochester Institute of Technology
Where Is My Photo? Study of the Representation of Tehran in Contemporary Iranian Photography
Mohammadreza Mirzaei, University of California, Santa Barbara
[Coffee & Tea]
Imaging the Self in a Narcissistic Age
Derek Conrad Murray, University of California, Santa Cruz 
The Ephemeral Gesture
Kate Albers, Associate Professor of Art History / University of Arizona



Jacob W. Lewis // Visiting Assistant Professor, Art & Art History, University of Rochester / Associate Academic Director, Photographic Preservation & Collections Management / Affiliated Faculty, Visual & Cultural Studies //  

Kyle Parry // Assistant Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture, UC Santa Cruz / Former University of Rochester Postdoctoral Fellow (2015–2016) //  

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Category: Humanities Project Events