Brian Wallis is an American curator and writer.
Episode 123: I cannot express enough how much I enjoy speaking with collectors and curators involved with the historical side of photography. As a collector, it is a pure pleasure to exchange thoughts on the medium and what we find or see within the “common” use of photography. Brian Wallis is a curator and writer working for the Arthur Walther Collection-a collection mostly known for its interests in African and Chinese photography.
This year saw the publication of Imagining Everyday Life: Engagements with Vernacular Photography (Steidl, 2020)-a book that features an important part of the Walther Collection. Vernacular photography includes, but is not limited to snapshots, family albums, photographic documents such as industrial photography, as well as a number of other possibilities. It is the most available means of physical photography that we have of the photographic record and it is mostly author-less in terms of the application of artistic ego.
The study of vernacular photography rarely features into scholarly approaches to the medium of photography and yet, it functions as a universal term for which to apply these fundamental uses of the medium. Imagining Everyday Life: Engagements with Vernacular Photography seeks to rectify some of these issues. There is a wide field of study available to scholars and academics and yet, this is possibly the most important single volume on the matter of vernacular photography from a impressive and important collection of the material.
This book and the conversation between Brian and I are the result of the book, but also initially of a symposium featuring a number of scholars, writers and enthusiasts such as Ariella Azoulay, Geoffrey Batchen, Ali Behdad, Elspeth Brown, Clément Chéroux, Lily Cho, Nicole Fleetwood, Sophie Hackett, Patricia Hayes, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Thy Phu, Leigh Raiford, Shawn Michelle Smith, Drew Thompson, Laura Wexler, and Deborah Willis. Oh to have been a fly on those walls! There are a number of great essays within the book including a live panel discussion transcript which is incredibly interesting and at times quite humorous.
Brian and I were able to record this over the past weeks and I need to sincerely thank him for his patience and ability to do this. I am honored to speak with him and I count it as part of my own education to speak with someone so embedded in the medium with such a deep knowledge. I found our conversation deep and compelling. Please have a listen. There is, as you might suspect, something for everyone in this discussion on a “common”part of our medium.
In my estimation, Imagining Everyday Life: Engagements with Vernacular Photography is one of the most important book of texts published in photography’s last decade. It was also the winner of the Aperture Parisphoto Photography Catalogue of the Year Award and rightfully so.