Mellon Senior Fellows 2001

James S. Ackerman and Urlich Keller
Research, January 2001 to December 2001

James Ackerman
Harvard University, United States

The research investigates what photography introduced to the conventions of architectural representation and what were the sources of this new system of vision. In the early years of photography, when long exposures were required, architecture and landscape subjects were favoured partly because they did not move, but also because they satisfied a growing interest among the bourgeoisie in the world beyond everyday experience, manifested as well in an increase in travel—previously the prerogative of a privileged minority. The first photographers, equipped with a new means of representation, decided how buildings ought to be depicted by relying on pre-existing representations of buildings by graphic means. Because the function of most early architectural photographs was to document buildings, we need to examine when and how a photograph may be identified as a document, and when and if such a photograph may become also a work of art. We might further consider what determined the photographers’ (or their employers’) decision to record certain buildings and not others, at home and abroad—a search that leads to issues of nationalism, imperialism, and colonialism.

Ulrich Keller
University of California, Santa Barbara, United States

This research explores the influence of visual culture on politics in the United States. In the last two hundred years, American political leadership has largely been exerted through the word, rendering speechmaking by legislators and presidents the principal focus of political reportage. The presidential speech appears as a sort of leitmotif in addressing the question of how the gradual transformation of the political speech from a literary genre to a visual one in the pictorial mass media has fundamentally changed—masked and disciplined—the political process, beginning early on with the rise of illustrated newspapers almost a century before the advent of television. The powerful effect of the early picture press on American politics can be strikingly demonstrated by comparing the speech events from two different historical eras.

The CCA Mellon Foundation Senior Fellowship Program was established in 2001 to encourage advanced research in architectural history and thought. With the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CCA has welcomed distinguished scholars for residencies of one to eight months, culminating in a public lecture.


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