My CAA talk went very well according to the feedback that I received. I focused on how shadows assumed a new expressive role as a racial metaphor in modernist photography. I previously shared some of the images that I was considering. Here are some of the ones that were included in my presentation:
The Beginning of the World by Brancusi, 1924
Josephine Baker by Huene, 1927
Garbo by Clarence Sinclair Bull, 1931
Kiki by Man Ray, 1926
A made particular note of the fact that shadows ultimately acquired their own autonomy in images like this:
Anyone trying to study the role of shadow in visual representation will not find much. Victor Stoichita and Michael Baxandall have written books on the topic, plus a few articles exist. That is why I am eagerly anticipating the publication of a new book called The Cinema and Its Shadow by Alice Maurice. Not only does it deal with shadows and race, it focuses on light-based media and its formal qualities:
Moving beyond analyzing race in purely thematic or ideological terms, Maurice traces how it shaped the formal and technological means of the cinema.
This is how I approach the photographic medium. The inherent nature of the medium and its means of formal expression relies upon a race for its coherence.
I am still working on my presentation for CAA. I came across this interesting photograph of Ruby Keeler, a dancer, and one-time wife of Al Jolson, with a dance partner:
Note how the shadows operate independently of the people they are meant to reflect as in Fred Astaire’s “Bojangles in Harlem” number in Swing Time (1935) that I have mentioned in an earlier post.