Art 141 Siegel: Thinking about Your Research

A guide to help students in Rachel Siegel's ART 141 class locate images and research photographers and the history of photography.

What photographers say about themselves

Photographers, like most creative artists, tend to speak through their work. But with a little bit of digging, you can often find autobiographical reflections on personal or professional websites. Look for things like artist statements, links to articles and essays from the photographer, or online exhibit catalogs. Remember, though, that this information is coming from the artist, and will as a result be selective and biased.

Wikipedia is a good place to start - explore the external links at the bottom of the entry.

What others say about photographers' lives

Biographical and descriptive or contextual information is sometimes available from gallery websites, if the artist is represented by a gallery. While this is a good source of information, it will always put the artist in a positive light.

Biographies and encyclopedia articles are likely available for most well-known and, especially, well-known and deceased artists.  Look for these using specialized library databases such as Gale eBooks or the library catalog.

Academic, popular, and trade magazines and journals will also have articles profiling artists and/or interviewing living artists. Look for these using library databases and Google Scholar.

What others say about photographers' work

Remember to look for art criticism about your photographers work.  This is usually academic writing (findable using library databases) and focuses on the artist's work rather than their biography.

The historical context

One option for this assignment is to explore the photographer's relationship to the time period in which they lived and created their art. When thinking about historical context, you might consider the following:

  • What major cultural, political, and economic events took place during the time the photographer was active and creating their work?
  • What were some of the important social issues at that time?
  • Are there explicit social, cultural, or political influences on the photographer's work?
  • Did the photographer help shape attitudes or shift perspectives through their work?