The Art of Curating

All throughout this week’s readings, this idea of representation kept returning. What interested me most was the link between illiteracy and who was underrepresented—in short farmers and slaves during the 20th century, people who couldn’t curate their stories themselves. However, as time progresses, this idea of self-representation, that if you believe that yourself or a group you belong to has a narrative worth curating, you must do it yourself. Yet the organization of this information gave light into why it was curated in the first place.

A common thread of the publications by the Federal Writer’s Project was this idea of authentic depiction of a group. Much like the Soape’s article, my immediate reaction—easpeically when reading the slave narratives—was that the interviewers would somehow muddle or inaccurately tell a person’s story. However, spending a few minutes on Photogrammar website, I saw this multimodal archive in contrast to the narratives of the Federal Writers Project. In a flash I saw nothing but room for objectiveness or for error on the part of the person trying to capture this moment in time. It seemed to me that it was very inaccurate to stage photographs—in essence its not capturing a still moment, rather captures the idealized art that the photographer is trying to display.

Yet, I realized that there is an art of curating, both for the Federal Writer’s Project and the photographs of the Photogrammar website. I realized that there is a difference between a photographer, and a photojournalist; a difference between an investigator, and merely a writer. Knowing this allowed me to realize the people in charge of capturing and documenting the stories, narratives, pictures, etc. want to depict them in accuracy and with authenticity, but also in a way that is meaningful. What is the benefit of having story upon story, or picture upon picture, without first making sure its something striking, informative, worth reading.

About Makiah Belk

Study of the Americas
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1 Response to The Art of Curating

  1. Daniel White says:

    I like your post for this week. I talked a lot about authenticity in my own blog post for this week as well. I think the life histories that we’ve been learning about in class are so interesting in the way that they try to represent someone (or a group of people) as authentically as possible–but they often run into problems with doing so.

    Are these photographs taken by photographers or photojournalists? I really like how you pointed out a distinction between the two. When I think about it, though, both have their own unique struggles with authenticity. A photographer may distort the reality or authenticity of an image by staging the photo or taking the picture in a certain light or style in order to achieve some ulterior artistic goal that really doesn’t have anything to do with the actual situation before them. A photojournalist will similarly warp truth and authenticity in order to prove some political or social point or meet some sort of story-telling agenda.

    It’s important to remember the *context* of all of these stories and photographs so that we can develop a better idea of what’s really going on in that situation in that specific place and time–in its most authentic form.

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