In this age of social media and “selfies,” photography has become a defining element in our lives. Most of us would assume all that began in 1839 when Louis Daguerre developed the daguerreotype process, the first publicly announced photographic process which required only minutes of exposure in the camera and produced clear, finely detailed results.
But Andrew Hershberger knows that photographic theorists frequently trace the roots of photography back to ancient times with the earliest mentions of the camera obscura (literally “dark room”).
An associate professor and chair of art history at Bowling Green State University, Hershberger will make selected stops within the history of photography in lectures at the Arizona Senior Academy on Monday and Tuesday (July 13 and 14). Entitled “Exploring the History of Photography: Selected Photographers and Theorists,” Part 1 on Monday will run from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the Senior Academy’s Great Room. Part 2 on Tuesday will run from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Great Room.
Hershberger’s talks will be related to the book he wrote last year, “Photographic Theory: An Historical Anthology” (Boston and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), which won a 2015 Insight Award from the Society for Photographic Education.
Of course, the book is largely devoted to the modern, post-daguerreotype development of photography and photographic theory, but it is the only collection to include ancient and Renaissance—in addition to 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century—writings related to the subject.
For example, Hershberger includes excerpts from Plato’s “The Republic” (the famous allegory of the cave, which photographic theorists frequently claim as the first camera obscura) and Leonardo da Vinci’s descriptions of eye function as explained by the camera obscura.
The book stresses the drama of historical and contemporary debates within theoretical circles and features comprehensive coverage of recent trends in digital photography.
Hershberger’s book shows that photographic debates range far beyond aperture settings. The anthology includes writings on the relation between camera images and visual images, between photographic images and art, and between photography and memory. Many included texts address the questions “What is photography?” and “What should photographs look like?” and “What is digital photography?”
Hershberger’s two talks at the ASA are a homecoming of sorts for the art historian. He earned his BFA degree at the University of Arizona in 1992 and, after completing master’s and Ph.D. programs at the University of Chicago and Princeton University, he returned to Tucson with a 2004 Ansel Adams Research Fellowship at the UA’s Center for Creative Photography.
In the acknowledgments section of his book, he wrote: “Since my Adams Fellowship, I have been able to reconnect with the UA and the CCP through the support of three visiting scholarships at the Arizona Senior Academy (ASA) in 2006, 2007, and 2009. For these five-week summer scholarships and for their hospitality each time, I would like to thank: former UA President, Dr. Henry Koffler, ASA President Dr. Marcia Neugebauer, Administrator Kathie Van Brunt, as well as [resident members of the Senior Academy].”
Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. Its residents support the Arizona Senior Academy, a non-profit charitable organization whose mission includes offering free concerts and lectures to the public. These events are held in the Great Room of The ASA Building adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center.
Due to the popularity of cultural events, non-residents who wish to ensure priority seating are advised to make reservations by email at email@example.com or by phone at (520) 647-0980. To learn more about the Academy, go to www.asa-tucson.org.
Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer