Universiteit Leiden

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How we know Nothing about a photograph

Thursday 20 April 2023
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

When do photographs become historical objects? What can historians know about a historical photograph, one we did not make or have never seen before? Without additional information about its production or recirculation, without context or caption, what do we really know about that historical object? At what point have we already started to speak on behalf of its silence, its visual familiarity, to speak of it as if we knew it?

Starting from the premise that we know “Nothing” about a photograph challenges researchers to think about the ways images shape images (remediation) and collective memories are brought to bear on any first viewing of historical photographs, whether in archives, histories or a museum exhibition.

Susan A. Crane

Susan Crane is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on topics such as collective memory, historical consciousness, and historical photography. In her latest book, Nothing Happened: A History (Stanford University Press, 2021), she delves into the history of the word ‘nothing.’ 

This is an in-person event co-hosted by the Global Histories of Knowledge working group at Leiden University and the History of Knowledge Seminar Series, which is typically held online.

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