Black Ops

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:

A made particular note of the fact that shadows ultimately acquired their own autonomy in images like this:

Ruby Keeler

Shadows take on a life of their own in the jazz age

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:

Image

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.