Still from Underground: The Corbis Image Vault, Part 1 of The Invisible Photograph © Carnegie Museum of Art.
For a few days back in late December 2013, a small group of us found ourselves 250 feet underground, exploring the subterranean expanse of Iron Mountain, a former limestone mine located in rural Western Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half’s drive north of Pittsburgh. You reach Iron Mountain on a windy road dotted with farmlands until you finally arrive at a nondescript parking lot and a guard station. Over 2,500 people work in this place, one of many Iron Mountain sites across the country, but you would never guess the immensity of it until you’re inside.
Here among data centers, governmental document storage facilities (including the National Archives and US Social Security), and vast collections of television and film celluloid reels (like Warner Brothers and Universal Studios), sits a repository of a very different kind of material. The Corbis Iron Mountain Archive houses over eleven million photographic negatives and glass plates from the Otto Bettmann Archive spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, and represents a significant glimpse into some of the most important historical moments captured by photographers both well-known and obscure. The fact that the collection was moved from an above-ground storage facility in New York City over ten years ago into the current underground “cold” storage gives a sense of its increasing importance. Bettmann himself had to smuggle his collection into the country after he was pushed out of Austria by the Nazis.
Charles “Teenie” Harris, group portrait of Elsa Elliott Harris, her mother Annie M. Elliott, Agnes Elliott, Vann Harris, Lionel Harris, and unknown girl, standing on grass with trees in background, c. 1949, black and white: Ansco Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.24756 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive.
The last week of summer has come and gone, and with it go fond memories of warm sunshine and summer activities. I’m certain we’ll all miss the delicious tastes of the season—mouth-watering fruits and vegetables, barbecued meats, or fresh catches from the sea. The smell of sand and surf, fragrant meadows laden with flowers, and long sun-filled evenings spent outdoors are being traded for snuggling on a cozy couch with a great book or TV show. Perhaps you, like many, shared some fun moments with loved ones at family events such as weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, or reunions, enjoying the time seeing old friends and meeting new additions to your circle.
The family of Charles “Teenie” Harris had such a summer event—an annual family reunion. A portion of the festivities were held at Carnegie Museum of Art, which offered the Harris family time to explore the Teenie Harris Archive exhibition, Teenie Harris Photographs: Baseball in Pittsburgh. This collection was curated by Negro League player Josh Gibson’s great grandson—a fellow player and friend of Teenie’s. They also witnessed The Teenie Harris Archive’s contribution to Race: Are We So Different?, an exhibition currently on display at our sister facility the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Film still from Discarded: Joachim Schmid and the Anti-Museum © Carnegie Museum of Art.
“I am an artist because there is no other description for what I do.”
These are the surprisingly telling words of Joachim Schmid, a Berlin-based artist who has spent more than 30 years of his career working with found photographs. The majority of his projects have involved gathering and re-presenting photographs—both print and digital—taken by the anonymous public. Oftentimes intentionally discarded by their creators, Schmid’s source materials would, but for him, disappear into the physical or virtual trash heap. Instead, Schmid’s “anti-museum” of forgotten, lost, and disused photographs, challenges us to reconsider not only our assumptions of photographic worth, but also how photography and collecting function as cultural practices.
Marilyn Monroe during the filming of The Misfits, 1960 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos.
Two women—a superstar perched perfectly still during a studio photo shoot, centered against a white seamless, as the second figure walks into the frame, the edge of the backdrop bisecting her head and torso. Each is holding a prop (an attribute?) that underscores their roles. One needs no introduction, while the other is photographer Eve Arnold, who spent two months on the set of The Misfits, Marilyn’s final film and their last session together.
I love Jaime Permuth’s astute reading of the image: “My first response is to the caption which accompanies the image. If this is Marilyn during the filming of The Misfits and the copyright of the image is ascribed to Eve Arnold, then who is the third woman holding the camera? If she is indeed the photographer Eve Arnold herself, then she has set up a second camera somewhere on set and has executed, of all things, a self-portrait with Marilyn.” He continues, “Another possibility: there is more than one photographer on set observing the interaction between the two women.” Continue reading
Hand pointing, light beams in background © SuperStock/Corbis.
August’s This Picture photograph has been, to my mind, one of the most enigmatic we’ve had so far. Depending on how you see it, the pointing finger can be accusatory, celebratory, or just plain puzzling. The responses we have received from all of you have risen gamely to the challenge of unpacking the meaning and associations of this picture. The four responses that stand out to me as the most intriguing are:
- “What your retina records the millisecond prior to your eyeball being poked. ‘At least it’s not a sharp stick.'” —George Slade
- Roy Lichenstein’s Finger Pointing (Corlett 126), 1973 as a rebuttal to. —April
- “The first and most obvious reaction I have is to think of the famous 1917 WWI Army recruitment poster by Flagg. The image is both accusatory and motivational…it is identifying you (me) for action or lack of action.” —Mike
- “Power. But does he have it, or does the viewer? Don’t let those light beams fool you…there’s something almost accusatory about that pointing finger. It’s almost as thought the finger is urging the light beam to move forward in an aggressive manner. Something disturbing and aggressive about this image.” —Becka Wright
Congratulations to George, April, Mike, and Becka! You are this month’s winners of the Program Manager’s Picks contest. Your prize (coming soon) is free admission to an upcoming World Premiere of The Invisible Photograph, which can be redeemed at one of our two remaining screenings, including our next one on September 19. Continue reading