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Volume 26, Number 12 — December 2018

Arts Calendar

Photography expert’s talk to focus on ‘UPSTATE’ exhibition, buildings as reflection of human experience
Dr. Alison Nordström

Photography expert’s talk to focus on ‘UPSTATE’ exhibition, buildings as reflection of human experience

Date(s):  November 26 - December 14, 2018
Venue: East Tennessee State University
807 University Pky.

Johnson City, TN 37614

JOHNSON CITY — Photos, though they focus on one fraction of a second in time, are multivalent, says independent scholar and photography curator Dr. Alison Nordström. They can have multiple meanings and values.

“They describe, with encyclopedic detail, what a person, place or thing has looked like at a singular moment,” says Nordström, an associate at Harvard’s Peabody Museum and a former curator at George Eastman House and Southeast Museum of Photography. “They show us what has existed in what space and how people and things in that space have related to one another.

“Photographs preserve, implying, in their frozen moments, what came before and what will follow, making permanent a unique point in the time continuum that would otherwise pass us by. Photographs also interpret. They are complex combinations of their author’s skills, circumstances, choices, intentions and taste, shaped further by chance and luck.”

Thursday, Nov. 29, Nordström, who shared these insights in an essay for the “Upstate” book by photographer and East Tennessee State University assistant professor Tema Stauffer, brings her perspectives on the art of photography to a 5 p.m. talk, focused on Stauffer’s images on exhibition at ETSU’s Reece Museum. The reception for the “Upstate” exhibition follows Nordström’s talk at about 6 p.m. Both the talk and reception are held at Reece Museum and are free and open to the public.

The “Upstate” series features images portraying the Hudson River area of New York, as well as abandoned industrial and home sites and a selection of Hudson inhabitants. The “Upstate” images are “a reflection on history, natural beauty, place, preservation and changes to the built environment and economic landscape that are relevant to post-industrial cities across America,” Stauffer says.

For the Nov. 29 pre-reception talk, Nordström says, “I think my task is to place the work in an historical and photo-historical context. Tema’s work is rich and complex so I want to focus on just one aspect of it. I’m going to look at buildings as though they are portraits the human-built landscape as a reflection of the humans who made it, but also consider how we ‘read’ such images.

“This talk and Tema’s work will speak not only to those who are interested in photography and contemporary art, but also to people interested in how to tell many different American stories.”

The independent scholar, although based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, travels the world curating exhibitions, researching, writing, critiquing and publishing on the topic of contemporary photography.

While at ETSU, Nordström will also share her expertise with Department of Art and Design students in critiques and class discussions. “What a great opportunity for our students at ETSU to learn from an internationally recognized photography scholar and curator,” says Anita DeAngelis, art professor and director of co-sponsor Mary B. Martin School of the Arts.

“This is always a two-way street,” Nordström says. “I have some sense of the larger world of photographic art, museums, galleries, festivals, et cetera, especially internationally, but they know much more than I do about what it’s like to be a young artist.

“I hope to provide some constructive commentary on the work they show me, but I also hope to convey some notion of what possibilities are out there. I’m sure I will also remind them that art is one of the humanities and that the more they know about the world, the better their work (and their lives) will be.”

While the talk and reception are Thursday, Nov. 29, the “Upstate” exhibition continues to be on display at the Reece Museum through Dec. 14.

For information, contact the Reece Museum at 423-439-4392 or visit For more information about the Martin School of the Arts, visit or call 423-439-8587. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.

Topics: Photography

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