Call for Papers: Photographic Proofs

July 11, 2007

Photographic Proofs, A Graduate Student Conference
“A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture.” – Susan Sontag
“But the proof of the pictures was in the reading. The photographs had to have their status as truth produced and institutionally sanctioned.” – John Tagg

The Yale University Photographic Memory Working Group, in conjunction with the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale, invites submissions for a graduate student conference entitled “Photographic Proofs.” The Conference will be held at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, Friday-Saturday, April 4-5, 2008. The theme of this conference should be interpreted broadly. Papers could be theoretical, historical, or critical explorations based on one photograph or a collection of photographs. They might interrogate the theme of photographic proofs from one of many different angles, including documentary, artistic, commercial, and vernacular photography. Selected sets of photographs may relate to war, science, medicine, race, class, law, business, reform, the natural and built environment, frontiers, performance, gender, sexuality, or family, among other subjects.

In order to engender an inter-disciplinary community and to further challenge and develop the vocabulary that surrounds photographic criticism, we encourage submissions from graduate students at all stages of their studies, working in any discipline. The Beinecke Library will add to this discussion by hosting a workshop for conference participants highlighting the library’s extensive photographic holdings.

We are pleased to announce that Professor John Tagg will deliver the opening keynote address. John Tagg is Professor of Art History and Comparative Literature at Binghamton University. His books, which often focus on the relationship between photography and power, include The Burden of Representation: Essays of Photographies and Histories, Grounds of Dispute: Art History, Cultural Politics and the Discursive Field, and the forthcoming The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Regimens and the Capture of Meaning.

In an effort to foster a geographically diverse community of graduate student presenters, we are pleased to be able to cover travel and accommodation expenses for students whose papers are selected.

Email CVs and abstracts to by Monday, October 15. Abstracts should be under 300 words. Final papers should not exceed 20 minutes in length. We will notify selected speakers by December 15. The conference website can be found at:

Co-organizers: Alice Moore and Francesca Ammon, graduate students in American Studies.

Some of the Beinecke Library’s rich photographic resources can be viewed by searching the Beinecke Digital Library. Important photograph collections in the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection include the James Weldon Johnson Photographs of Blacks collections (descriptions available in Orbis), the Randolph Linsley Simpson Collection, Carl Van Vechten’s Portraits, and photograph collections found in the papers of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright.

Image: Literary conference at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, Normal, Alabama, Autumn, 1966. From the Langston Hughes Papers.