Zoe Strauss remembers Allan Sekula in the ICP Library

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Last week, artist-in-residence Zoe Strauss touched many parts of the International Center of Photography, and the library was delighted to have had a visit from the artist, whose retrospective is currently in the galleries of the ICP with a smart and cozy museum reading room that we are very fond of by Megawords.

Strauss installed a selection of books related to Allan Sekula in our display window, together with a letter from her about Sekula, as a memorial.

Among the treasures there, you will view his artist file, which has some really surprising items relating to the career of this great thinker, like a card announcing ICP’s Critical Dialogs Series of Lectures moderated by Abigail Solomon-Godeau in March of 1984, with a program called “Making the Invisible Visible: Radical Political Photography” featuring Sekula and Victor Burgin.


Allan Sekula (January 15, 1951 – August 10, 2013)

Allan Sekula was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, and later moved with his family to Southern California. He received a BA and an MFA from UC San Diego, where he was a key participant in a circle of artists and critics who were reinvigorating documentary practice and politically engaged photography.  As a photographer, art critic, writer, and filmmaker, his work focused on what he described as “the imaginary and material geographies of the advanced capitalist world.” With his work Aerospace Folktalkes (1973), he debuted what would become his signature style, pairing photographs with extended essays. Photography Against the Grain (1984), Fish Story (1995), and Performance Under Working Conditions (2003) are among some of his most known works. Sekula taught photography and media at CalArts from 1985 until his death earlier this year.

“As a writer, Allan described with great clarity and passion what photography can, and must do: document the facts of social relations while opening a more metaphoric space to allow viewers the idea that things could be different,” said CalArts Dean Thomas Lawson. “And as a photographer he set out to do just that. He laid bare the ugliness of exploitation, but showed us the beauty of the ordinary; of ordinary, working people in ordinary, unremarkable places doing ordinary, everyday things.”

Allan was a friend and mentor to students, fellow artists, and many of us in the ICP community.  Zoe Strauss, whose exhibition 10 Years is on view across the street in the museum, assembled this selection of Allan’s books in tribute to his life and work. Below are remarks that she wrote for his memorial at CalArts on October 5.

Kristin Lubben, International Center of Photography

Allan Sekula Items on Display

[ICP Library items have call numbers.]

Allan Sekula: Shipwreck and Workers [DVD]. Santa Monica CA: Christopher Grimes Gallery, 2007.

Baetens, Jan and Hilde Van Gelder (Eds.). Critical Realism in Contemporary Art: Around Allan Sekula’s Photography. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2010. TR187 .S542 2010

Bolton, Richard (Ed.). The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1989. TR187 .C66 1989 “The Body and the Archive” by Allan Sekula appears here.

Burgin, Victor. Thinking Photography. London: Macmillan Press, 1990. TR187 .T45 1990 “On the Invention of Photographic Meaning” by Allan Sekula appears here.

Fusco, Coco and Brian Wallis (Eds.). Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self. New York: International Center of Photography with Harry N. Abrams, 2003. TR680 .O55 2003

Liebling, Jerome, Ed. Photography: Current Perspectives. Rochester, NY: The Massachusetts Review, 1978. TR187 .L54 1987 “Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary (Notes on the Politics of Representation)” by Allan Sekula appears here.

Mining Photographs and Other Pictures: A Selection from the Negative Archives of Shedden Studio, Glace Bay, Cape Breton. 1948-1968. Photographs by Leslie Shedden. Essays by Don Macgillivray and Allan Sekula, with an introduction by Robert Wilkie. Halifax: The Press of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and The University College of Cape Breton Press, 1983.

October, Number 39. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, Winter 1986. “The Body and the Archive” by Allan Sekula appears here.

Open City: Street Photographs since 1950. Essays by Kerry Brougher and Russell Ferguson. Ostfildern-Ruit : Hatje Cantz; New York, N.Y. : Distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, 2001. TR659.8 .O64 2001

The Photography Workshop. Photography/Politics: One. London: Photography Workshop, 1978.

The Photography Workshop. Photography/Politics: Two. London: Comedia Publishing Group, 1986.

Sekula, Allan. Artist File. [The folder may include announcements, clippings, press releases, brochures, reviews, invitations, small exhibition catalogs, and other ephemeral material.]

Sekula, Allan. Dead Letter Office. Rotterdam: Nederlands Foto Institut, 1998.

Sekula, Allan. Dismal Science: Photo Works 1972-1996. Normal IL : University Galleries, Illinois State University, 1999. TR140 .S452 1999

Sekula, Allan. Fish Story. Dusseldorf, Germany : Richter Verlag, 2002. TR820.5 .S452 2002

Sekula, Allan. Five Days that Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond.  New York : Verso, 2000. TR820.5 .U6 .S542 2000

Sekula, Allan. Performance Under Working Conditions. Viena : Generali Foundation ; distributed by D.A.P., 2003. TR654 .S45 2003

Sekula, Allan. Photography Against the Grain: Essays and Photo Works 1973-1983. Halifax: The Press of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1984.

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