Norfolk Photographs

This paper contains all your own ideas as you formulated them in the draft but now they are all revised, all images and references are in place. This is your best and final version. Submit only in Word format, approximately 5 pages of text. On top of it include images, endnotes, bibliography and a cover page. Times roman, 12 pt., 1 in margins .
How to write the Paper: general ideas and suggestions

Here are the preliminary ideas on how to look at images. Your job will be to move beyond these suggestions and construct an interpretive narrative after consulting with other students in the class.

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Norfolk photographs of immigrant businesses 1919

open the link It includes a set of photographs and a history paper on Norfolk at the time of the photographs. Notice, the article is written on a typewriter – it was written about 1983. Read the article. Notice, that this is a history essay, this means it talks about the historical reality, but, it does not involve a discussion about the art of photography, it does not talk about images as works of art, it does not connect them to the general field of photography of street scenes in America in 1919. Nevertheless, this is an important body of information for us.

Your job will be to connect these photographs to the world of art.

You will ask: where is art here? Well, this is called the realist photography. Yes, the photographer was documenting, recording, but he had to make certain decisions about the composition, distribution of light, rhythm, or balance. What elements (objects, people) are emphasised, what elements are subordinated? How does the photographer achieve an effect of realism? How does he use the one vanishing perspective of a single lens? How does he unify the image? You have just noticed that I am talking about the Visual Elements and Principles of Design. Why are the people there so static? Is this something to do with the type of camera the photographer used? How long was the exposure? You can see that these photographs are very interesting despite their rather dreary subject.

We can also talk about the content, iconography, objects depicted there, people depicted there. Who are they? Do they try to preserve their own culture? How does the photographer look at the people there? Are they glorified? Are they heroic? Do they promote the American myths of “making it in America”? Do these photographs promote the idea “if you work hard you will achieve anything that you want”? Are these immigrants achieving the “American dream”? What do these photographs say about the national myths? When did these myths really take hold in the national psyche? These are just some questions that we can ask of the works of art. We follow the photographers narrative, we do not invent this narrative ourselves.

The photographer is unknown, no problem. There were others like him. Perhaps he was a local photographer or perhaps he was on assignment from New York newspaper. The Chrysler Museum of Art has a collection of photographs by Harry C. Mann 1912-1915 depicting Norfolk. How do they differ from the photographs in ODU? You can find the link to Harry C. Mann here:

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