Framing the Field: Photography’s Histories in American Institutions

PhD candidate Allison Pappas '08 has been awarded grants in Spring 2021 from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation for a project she's creating with  Natalie Zelt, Ph.D., Terra Foundation Fellow in American Photography at the Rijksmuseum.

Framing the Field: Photography’s Histories in American Institutions is an archival initiative and the first research project of its kind, devoted to recording and making public the untold histories of the formation of the field of photography in the United States from the 1970s through 1990s. The first stage of the project will focus on the roles and professional lives of five important curators who collectively shaped this history: Sarah Greenough, Maria Morris Hambourg, Sandra Phillips, Anne Wilkes Tucker, and Deborah Willis. Through conducting individual, long-form interviews with each participant and then bringing them all together in conversation, Framing the Field will explore central issues that impacted them across their disparate careers and institutions, and the means by which they worked through them. Engaging in a methodological approach of layering, it will examine the interconnectivity of key problems and practices through a handful of different frames, including gender, geography, relationships, and institutional structures, to reconsider how disparate unrecognized factors have informed our received ideas of photography. The project maintains that such transparency is essential to both complicating the dominant narratives of the field, and understanding the current terrain curators face.

Allison Pappas '08 is a doctoral candidate in the History of Art and Architecture, studying the history of photography. Her dissertation explores the conceptual frameworks through which we think about the medium, proposing a dialogic model in which the ideas used to make sense of photography are actively formed in relation to the material photograph itself. Allison came to Brown from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where she was the assistant curator of photography. Recently she has also held positions in the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the RISD Museum, and the David Winton Bell Gallery. Allison is delighted to be back at Brown, where she received a B.A. in History of Art and Architecture and a B.A. in Anthropology, with honors. She holds an M.A. from Williams College in History of Art.

Natalie Zelt is a curator who earned her doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin where she studied art of the United States with a focus on photography and critical race and gender studies. Her current research examines the impact of U.S. cultural constructions on how American photography gets defined at home and abroad.