PRESENTATION TO THE AHFAP CONFERENCE, NOV. 19, 2009 by VID INGELEVICS.
In November, 2009 I attended the AHFAP Conference, held that year at the Wallace Collection, Hertford House in London. As well as working as a visual artist, I also teach at Ryerson University in Toronto in the School of Image Arts. Due to my teaching schedule I had to fly into London the morning of the Conference, go directly from Heathrow to the conference site and give my presentation shortly after arriving. Needless to say, I barely remember presenting!
However, thankfully, I had prepared a presentation in the form of a Powerpoint on the subject of my research – the absence of a recognition of institutional museum photography uses within histories of photography at that time – especially odd, given the influence of some museums over those histories of the medium. I had first identified this absence as a kind of blind spot back in the early 1990s when, by happenstance, I had found myself one afternoon in the photo archives of the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris, looking at what were, in my opinion, remarkable images of the museum’s 19th century history. I wondered why I had never seen images like that anywhere.
This discovery led me to question what kind of photographic records might have been made of institutional activities at other public museums? Thus were the seeds of my first exhibition project, Camera Obscured: Photographic Documentation and the Public Museum sown. With little funding I began to piggyback my research at various museum photo archives onto other unrelated travels, trying to spend time in museums whenever I could.
In 1994 I exhibited some of the fruits of my research in Toronto as a supplement to an exhibition titled Bodies of Photographs. A small pamphlet was produced and, somehow, in a pre-internet age, it found itself in the hands of a curator at the Photographers Gallery in London. To make a longer story short, in 1996 I was invited to turn my research into a more ambitious exhibition to be debuted at the Photographers Gallery. With their support I was able to secure some small grants in Canada to continue research and the exhibition opened at the PG in May, 1997 to very positive responses. It then toured to a number of other galleries in the UK, Sweden, Canada and finished in Germany at the Sprengel Museum, Hanover in 2004. A selection of images from the show appeared again in exhibitions in 2012-13 at the Pritzhanger Gallery, London and the Holden Gallery, Manchester.
The exhibition content has now been donated to the Ryerson Image Centre at Ryerson University, Toronto and is available for research there.
The Powerpoint that I showed in 2009 is presented here as a kind of artefact in itself, marking a specific moment in my thinking about the issue of the missing history of museum photography and as a tribute to Sue Davies, founder of the Photographers Gallery. I have annotated some of the slides as some need a bit of elaboration that would have come through my commentary at the presentation.
Lastly, the Powerpoint features two additional related museum photography-based projects that grew out of Camera Obscured and continued my interest in the invisible labour of photography at the museum. These are The Metropolitan Museum of Edward Milla (1999-2007) and Between art and Art (1999-2008). They are described in the Powerpoint and my contact info and a link to a website that itself will also soon be an artefact can be found at the end of the presentation. Please get in touch if you have questions or comments!