Category Archives: Archive of Documentary Arts

New Acquisitions Roundup: Farm Security Administration Portfolio

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year by reviewing some notable items and collections that arrived here at the Rubenstein Library in the past year.

Lange
Photograph by Dorothea Lange from Portfolio of 10 photographs by Walker Evans, Dorthea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Arthur Rothstein, selected and printed by Arthur Rothstein.

The photographs made for the Farm Security Administration form a profound pictorial record of American life during and following the Great Depression. Between 1935-1944 the FSA commissioned photographers including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, Jack Delano, Marion Post Wolcott, Gordon Parks, and Carl Mydans initially to document the challenges facing farmers and migratory agricultural workers as part of the New Deal. The project eventually expanded to include documentation of urban living conditions across the U.S. as well. This collective work for the FSA made a major contribution to the then burgeoning practice of documentary photography and many FSA contributors ultimately became icons of 20th century photography.

This portfolio includes 10 images that Rothstein believed were representative of the FSA’s overall output including the now iconic “Migrant Mother” photograph by Dorthea Lange.

See a comprehensive visualization of FSA photography on Photogrammar.

Post contributed by Lisa McCarty, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts

Rob Amberg: Forty Years in Appalachia

Joyce Chandler, Joe Ross Chandler’s wife, 1976.* Copyright, Rob Amberg
Joyce Chandler, Joe Ross Chandler’s wife, 1976.*
Copyright, Rob Amberg

Rob Amberg journeyed to the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina during the height of the back-to-land movement.  It was a time when hippies and artists took John Prine’s advice and “blew up [their] TVs, threw away [their] papers, went to the country, and built [them] a house.” All kinds of folks retreated to the mountains back then, and Amberg arrived in 1973 with the suspicious title of documentary photographer.

Tillman Chandler’s barn and tobacco crop, 1975. Copyright, Rob Amberg
Tillman Chandler’s barn and tobacco crop, 1975.
Copyright, Rob Amberg

I say suspicious because Appalachia has been a favorite testing ground for ambitious artists for more than a century.  These artists, documentarians, and musicologists act as arbiters and preservationists for what they view as culturally interesting and valuable, and Madison County in particular, where Amberg found himself and where I grew up, is not always portrayed in a nuanced light.

Joe Ross Chandler and Bobby Cantrell, 1977. Copyright, Rob Amberg.
Joe Ross Chandler and Bobby Cantrell, 1977.
Copyright, Rob Amberg.

It’s easy though for artists to fall into the trap of reproducing certain convenient and sometimes sensational tropes.  My personal favorite is the proliferation of snake handler portraits.  A recent comment on a Vice Magazine series called “Two Days in Appalachia,” a series that provoked much conversation and criticism, pointed out that “poverty porn” has been a long standing tradition of documentary artists creating work from the Appalachian region.  So, yes, I think it’s fair to initially approach any stranger with a camera in the mountains with suspicion.

The first picture I made of Junior, 1975. Copyright, Rob Amberg
The first picture I made of Junior, 1975.
Copyright, Rob Amberg

All of this is to say that Rob Amberg has created a complex, beautiful, and compassionate body of work. Of the many aspects of his work that I find remarkable, I will mention two here:  first, when he moved to Madison County in 1973, he came to stay.  His photographs, whether documenting the small community of Sodom Laurel, the expansion of I-26, or the continual influx of new people, follow long-term changes in the landscape, a landscape that he calls “ShatterZone.”  Amberg defines ShatterZone this way:

Shatter zone is an 18th-century term that refers to an area of fissured or cracked rock that forms a network of veins that are often filled with mineral deposits. The phrase took on new meaning after World War II when anthropologists and political scientists began using it to speak of borderlands. In this modern definition shatter zones are places of refuge from, and resistance to, capitalist economies, state making, and state rule. Appalachia and Madison County have always fit that definition.

At Cricket’s birthday party, Big Pine, 2011. Copyright, Rob Amberg.
At Cricket’s birthday party, Big Pine, 2011.
Copyright, Rob Amberg.
I-26 at Buckner Gap, Madison County, N.C. 2008. Copyright, Rob Amberg.
I-26 at Buckner Gap, Madison County, N.C. 2008.
Copyright, Rob Amberg.

For four decades, Amberg has acted as a witness and interpreter of both the visible and invisible fissures of a changing landscape, and he has captured moments that could not be experienced, let alone appreciated, by someone who was merely passing through.  When viewing his photographs, I often ask myself, how did he get there?  He got there because he has dedicated the majority of his life to being in Madison County.

J.D. Thomas walking away from his burning home place, Sprinkle Creek, Madison County, N.C., 1997. Copyright, Rob Amberg
J.D. Thomas walking away from his burning home place, Sprinkle Creek, Madison County, N.C., 1997.
Copyright, Rob Amberg

The second aspect of his work that greatly interests me, which is related to the longitudinal nature of his project, is Amberg’s own increasingly entangled role in the community.  Once, over lunch, Amberg and I talked about all the goings on in Madison County, and it became clear that he knew more about the land and the people than I did.  I was born and raised there, but I left when I was sixteen and now live in Hillsborough.  As I have become more of an outsider to the community, Amberg’s intimacy with the land and people continues to grow.  And as this intimacy grows, he becomes more implicated in the narratives that he weaves, in the lives that he portrays.  And, curiously, as his subjects view his work, they are informed and changed by the stories he tells.  All is changing as the work goes on.

Ben Amberg, Rob’s son, with Dellie and Junior, 1982. Copyright, Rob Amberg
Ben Amberg, Rob’s son, with Dellie and Junior, 1982.
Copyright, Rob Amberg
Junior playing with my daughter Kate, 1992. Copyright, Rob Amberg
Junior playing with my daughter Kate, 1992.
Copyright, Rob Amberg

To me, Amberg’s photographs are one continuous conversation.  I keep going back to them; they keep speaking to one another and to me.  It’s an amazing time to be able to view his work, in medias res.  In fact, I’ve never quite had this kind of experience with an artist, one who so profoundly shapes my view of the place I grew up.  It’s my hope that he continues to work for many years, and I am excited to follow his efforts as he contributes his photographs and papers to the Rubenstein Library.

Isaac Gunter’s tobacco bed and cemetery, 1982. Copyright, Rob Amberg.
Isaac Gunter’s tobacco bed and cemetery, 1982.
Copyright, Rob Amberg.
Migrant farmworker cutting and spudding tobacco, 1993. Copyright, Rob Amberg
Migrant farmworker cutting and spudding tobacco, 1993.
Copyright, Rob Amberg
New condominiums at the Wolf Ridge Resort. Upper Laurel, Madison County, N.C., 2007. Copyright, Rob Ambger
New condominiums at the Wolf Ridge Resort. Upper Laurel, Madison County, N.C., 2007.
Copyright, Rob Amberg

As an addendum, I should mention that Amberg’s photographs reach well beyond Appalachia, and you can follow his current projects on his blog:  http://robamberg.com/.  Also, you can view the collection guide to learn more about the Rubenstein Library’s holdings.

*I have kept Amberg’s original captions, which reveal a glimmer of how he views the photographs, the people, and the land.

 

Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Research Services Assistant. 

 

2015 Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Visiting Artist: Nate Larson

Reception & Artist’s Talk

Date: November 5

Time: 6:00-8:00 pm

Location: Center for Documentary Studies, 1317 W. Pettigrew St, Durham, NC

Nate_Larson_272x381In October 2015, the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library will welcome Nate Larson as the second Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Artist. Named in honor of Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a prolific author, interviewer, curator, and champion of the arts, this new artist-in-residence program provides an extended opportunity for an artist to study and engage with archival, manuscript and other special collections in support of developing a new body of creative work.

Nate Larson is a contemporary artist working with photographic media, artist books and digital video. His projects have been widely shown across the US and internationally as well as featured in numerous publications and media outlets, including Wired Raw File, The Picture Show from NPR, Slate, CNN, Hyperallergic, Gizmodo, Buzzfeed News, Vice Magazine, the New York Times Lens Blog, Flavorwire, the BBC News Viewfinder, Frieze Magazine, the British Journal of Photography, The Washington Post, and Art Papers. His artwork is included in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Orlando Museum of Art, Portland Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Center for Photography at Woodstock, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago. Additionally, Larson holds a full‐time academic appointment in the photography department at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and chaired the 2014 national conference of the Society for Photographic Education.

Larson will be in residence at the Rubenstein Library October 26-November 22, 2015.  During this time, Larson will meet with scholars, students and staff from across the academic disciplines at Duke and conduct his own research. Larson will give an Artist’s Talk about his work to date at the Center for Documentary Studies on November 5, 2015 from 6:00-8:00pm.

The event is free and open to the public and made possible through the generous support of Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel. Larson’s visit is jointly organized and sponsored by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Center for Documentary Studies, and the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts Program at Duke University.

Contact – Lisa McCarty, lisa.mccarty@duke.edu

Image below by Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman from the series Geolocation

Tell me I'm not making a mistake. Tell me you’re worth the wait. #fb

 

Post submitted by Lisa McCarty, Curator, Archive of Documentary Arts

Screamfest III: The Cutening

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2015
Time: 2:00-4:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Contact: Amy McDonald, amy.mcdonald@duke.edu

Y’all, we hear you. The semester is getting more and more intense and sometimes Duke is just so . . . gothic, you know? Sometimes you just need to eat some free candy and look at cute things. And what better time to do that than in celebration of that traditionally cute holiday, Halloween?

Your cuddly Rubenstein librarians would like to invite you to visit us for Screamfest III, an open house featuring creepy ADORABLE things from our collections.

Halloween Postcard
Like this postcard of these sweet black kitty-cats, bringing you Halloween joys in their happy hot air pumpkins.

Illustration from Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica, ca. 1737.

Or this illustration of these precious babies from our History of Medicine Collection’s Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica by Frederik Ruysch. Yes, fine, they’re skeleton babies, and they’re standing on a pile of human organs, but they’re totally listening to a song by The Wiggles.

Ghost at the Library. From the 1984 Chanticleer.

You can also page through the 1984 Chanticleer to view the photos of this friendly library ghost, who just wants to bring you fuzzy slippers so you can study comfortably.

Demon Miniature from Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Role-Playing Games.

And sure, scourge and sword-wielding demons are very scary when they’re life-sized. But swing by our open house and you’ll be able to bravely make kissy-faces at this little dude (paperclip for scale) from the Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Role-Playing Games.

In fact, we promise that there will be so much cuteness (and candy) that, well, you might die. See you there!

Archive of Documentary Arts Photobook Club Meeting

Archive of Documentary Arts Photobook Club Meeting

Date: Tuesday, May 5, 6:00-7:30 p.m.

ADA-Photobook-ClubLocation: Center for Documentary Studies Library, 1317 W Pettigrew Street, Durham, NC 27707

Join us for the third meeting of The Archive of Documentary Arts Photobook Club where we will be discussing Henri Cartier-Bresson’s, The Decisive Moment.

Book Discussion Group, Free and Open to the Public, byo beverage and/or snack

The book is on reserve for public use prior to the meeting in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Examine these editions for yourself in person, and/or read more about the book and Cartier-Bresson online at the links below:

Time    The Guardian   Magnum Photos

**Please note – Discussion will take place at the Center for Documentary Studies while the books themselves are held at The Rubenstein Library.**

Contact: Lisa McCarty, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts | lisa.mccarty@duke.edu

Crazies in Love: A Valentine’s Open House

Date: Thursday, February 12, 2015
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Location: Room 217, Perkins Library
Contact: Amy McDonald, amy.mcdonald@duke.edu

Dearest readers and friends, we long to see you on Valentine’s Day. Won’t you please set our hearts a-flutter and come to our Valentine’s Day open house?

Do you fear that you will be too busy penning epistles of undying love to your own beloveds to join us? Ah, but this event is crafted especially for you: we’ll be sharing the most swoon-worthy of love declarations from the Rubenstein Library’s collections, so you may find just the term of endearment you need to woo your mate.

Perhaps a few examples to help the time pass more swiftly until we meet?

We’re charmed by the simplicity of this short note from the scrapbook of Odessa Massey, Class of 1928:

Note from Odessa Massey's scrapbook
From the Odessa Massey Scrapbook, 1924-1928.

Or the more expressive route taken by Francis Warrington Dawson—writing to Sarah Morgan, his future wife–is always sure to succeed:

Letter from Francis Warrington Dawson to Sarah Morgan, February 10, 1873. From the Dawson Family Papers.
Letter from Francis Warrington Dawson to Sarah Morgan, February 10, 1873. From the Francis Warrrington Dawson Family Papers.

“How deeply should I thank God that he has allowed me to know you, which is to love you, for the sun now has a brighter light & the sky a deeper blue. The whole world seems truer & better, & this pilgrim, instead of lingering in the depths, is breasting the healthy difficulties of existence, with his eyes fast fixed on you. Whatever else may fail, believe always in this devoted & unselfish love of Francis Warrington Dawson!”

Or whose heart wouldn’t melt upon receiving this most adorable valentine, from our Postcard Collection:

Valetine, undated. From the Postcard Collection.
Valentine postcard, undated. From the Postcard Collection.

And there might even be tips on how to present yourself when you present your valentine!

Barbasol advetisement, 1944.
Barbasol advetisement, 1944. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/adaccess_BH0643/

 

Have we convinced you yet? What if we mention that there will be chocolate and candy?

Until next Thursday,

Your Rubenstein librarians

Rights! Camera! Action! Presents: “The One Who Builds”

theonewho

Rights! Camera! Action! Presents: “The One Who Builds” (2013)

Directors: Hillary Pierce, Peter Carolla, and Nick Gooler

Total Running Time: 40 minutes

Date: Wednesday, February 5, 2015

Time: 7:00-9:00 PM

Location: Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, FHI Garage

The One Who Builds is a film about the life and work of Dr. Omer Omer, once a Sudanese refugee, now an American citizen who is paying it forward as the director of a refugee resettlement organization.  Through the North Carolina African Services Coalition in Greensboro, Omer has transcended boundaries dictated by society, race and religion to build a new village, one friendship at a time.

Co-Directors Hillary Pierce, Peter Carolla, and North Carolina African Services Coalition Executive Director Million Mekonnen will lead a panel discussion will follow the screening.

Presented by the Duke Human Rights Center@FHI, John Hope Franklin Research Center, Human Rights Archive and Archive of Documentary Arts, Rubenstein Library, and Screen/Society

For more information please contact: John B. Gartrell, 919-660-5922, john.gartrell@duke.edu

Rights! Camera! Action! Presents “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” (2011)

Date: Thursday January 22, 2014
Time: 7:00-9:00pm
Location: FHI Garage, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse
Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, 2011 (Total Running Time: 103 minutes)
Directors: Director: Pamela Yates Producers: Paco de Onis

In a stunning milestone for justice in Central America, a Guatemalan court recently charged former dictator Efraín Rios Montt with genocide for his brutal war against the country’s Mayan people in the 1980s — and Pamela Yates’ 1983 documentary, When the Mountains Tremble, provided key evidence for bringing the indictment. Granito: How to Nail a Dictator tells the extraordinary story of how a film, aiding a new generation of human rights activists, became a granito — a tiny grain of sand — that helped tip the scales of justice.

granito-image

The screening will begin at 7 p.m. A panel discussion with Director Pamela Yates and Producer Paco de Onis follows the screening. Date:

Sponsors: Duke Human Rights Center@ FHI, the Human Rights Archive, and the Archive of Documentary Arts and Screen/Society. Cosponsored by Commissioning Truths, a Trent Foundation project.

For further information contact Patrick Stawski, Duke University patrick.stawski@duke.edu  919-660-5823.

Divine Works: Expressions of Faith in Two Religious Communities as Seen in the Photographs of Kristin Bedford

A body of color photography by Kristin Bedford recently acquired as part of the Rubenstein Library Archive of Documentary Arts offers striking images of religious practices in two very different communities of faith, and at the same time challenges cultural stereotypes of African-American worship. The two projects that came out of her experience are titled “Be Still: A Storefront Church in Durham,” and “The Perfect Picture.”

While an MFA student at Duke University, Bedford visited and photographed adults and children in the urban congregation of the Apostolic Deliverance Rebirth Outreach Ministries in Durham, North Carolina for a period of ten months. During worship, she sat in the pews among the congregants, capturing in these rich color portraits what she calls “stillness, contemplation, and the moments between the moments.”

Bedford-B-eStill-Cario
Cario, September 30, 2012

 

Bedford-Be Still-Larya
Larya, March 17, 2013

 

Bedford-BeStill-Quadir
Quadir, February 10, 2013

Credit: Kristin Bedford photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Bedford’s approach to joining these worshippers while photographing them also informed her stay with a utopian community founded by Father Divine in the 1930’s, whose members call themselves the “International Peace Mission Movement.”  Bedford lived and worked with the community for five weeks in the summer of 2013 at their estate near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She documented their faith as it is lived out in everyday acts of racial harmony and guided by the divine nature of work: a form of the medieval commandment of “ora et labora.”  Bedford came away with extraordinary views of a community that remains devout and committed to the movement despite a declining membership.  She titled this project “The Perfect Picture,” an acknowledgment of Father Divine’s credo that the act of taking a photograph is akin to the faith-driven act of striving for unity and perfection in life.

Bedford-PerfectPicture
The Perfect Picture

 

Bedford-PerfectPicture-Ornaments
Mother and Father Divine Ornaments for “American Christmas”

 

Bedford-PerfectPicture-FathersEstate
Father’s Estate, “The Mountain of the House of the Lord”

Credit: Kristin Bedford photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

The photographs and supporting materials in “Be Still: A Storefront Church in Durham,” and “The Perfect Picture,” are available for research use in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  An online guide has been prepared for the collection.  Please contact a reference archivist before coming to use this collection.

Post contributed by Lisa McCarty, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts, and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Visual Materials Processing Archivist.

Event: The Archive of Documentary Arts Photobook Club

Photobook Club

Tuesday, January 27, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Center for Documentary Studies Library, 
1317 W Pettigrew Street, Durham, NC 27707

Join us for the second meeting of The Archive of Documentary Arts Photobook Club where we will be discussing Helen Levitt’s first photobook, A Way of Seeing.

Book Discussion Group, Free and Open to the Public, byo beverage and/or snack.

HL new york 1940
New York, 1940 (Fraenkel Gallery)

Three editions are on reserve for public use prior to the meeting in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Examine these editions for yourself in person, and/or read more about the book and Ms. Levitt online at the links below:

NY Times Lens Blog,   The TelegraphFraenkel Gallery

**Please note – Discussion will take place at the Center for Documentary Studies while the books themselves are held at The Rubenstein Library.**

Contact: Lisa McCarty, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts | lisa.mccarty@duke.edu