From my standpoint, I think the conference went pretty well. Granted this semester my primary responsibility was making sure the two days of the conference were well photographically documented since I did most of my organizational work with the budget committee last semester. I haven’t gotten a chance to go through my images yet. I’ll probably try to process them next week. It did give me the unique opportunity of seeing (at least in part) all of the panels and presentations, so I feel like I can confidently say it all ran pretty smoothly. There were a few times the technology in the rooms didn’t cooperate, but that’s really just to be expected. I think the public history panel was great, and I think we should do something similar next year. I also really enjoyed Dr. Brundage’s talk. For some reason it was not what I expected, but I found it quite brilliant. Kara Walker is one of my favorite contemporary artists, and I found his take on her and the legacy of the Civil War quite fascinating.
In terms of suggestions for improvements, I don’t have many. I think we all need to work on our communication skills, though. Communicating clearly what has to be done, when it has to be done, what’s changed, etc. is really important when executing these things. We were all a little guilty of letting this break down at certain points in the planning process, but I think we can do better next year. I think the HGSA officers and the other second years did a really great job and worked very hard and provided us with a good model of how to run our conference next year.
Also, just a sidenote, getting Panera to cater was awesome. I definitely think we should do that next year. Major win!
Methodology: More Thoughts
Honestly, the concept of methodology continues to be a little slippery for me. I’m still trying to suss out what is going to work best for my project. I am sure, however, the more I think about it and the more I talk with Dr. Halpin that I will need to cobble a few different theoretical frameworks together. For my project, I really feel some sort of economic analysis is important. I’m basing my measure of success on levels of economic success. My challenge when implementing this aspect will be to keep it from getting too boring. I’ve tried to read some economic histories before and found them quite dull. I do not want that to happen with my project. I also think gender theory should play some part in my paper. Since, as I mentioned last week, the photography trade seems to be one of only a few during the 19th century that was not necessarily gendered, I need to explore why this was so. Also, since a main component of my argument looks at the nature of the frontier lands were my photographers were working, frontier studies will play an important part in my methodology. I really do believe that their location helped ease their pathways to success, so understanding the nature of life on the frontier is essential in my study. Finally, and this is extremely new territory for me, but I’m planning to utilize borderlands studies in my work as well. The more I have been researching the more clear it has become that the U.S. Canadian border on the West really was not a solid “border” until the first few decades of the 20th century. I know, from some preliminary research I did last year, there was interaction between Mr. and Mrs. Maynard and the Californians. They often got their supplies for their studio from California. I am still working this out, but I want to approach the area I am studying as the Pacific Coast not as the U.S. and Canada or really as California and B.C. San Francisco and Victoria were two of the urban hubs along the Pacific Coasts so considering how their interactions played out for the photo community is important to me. We’ll see how my combination goes as I sally forth.
Second crack at the focus statement
Also before I begin, there was something in my first attempt that I don’t think I explained or was asked to explain, but that is important. I’m choosing to look at a time period between 1850 and 1880 (technically 1885 but that looks weird when I state it that way. I’m working on it.) I am doing this because these provide two important bookends, for lack of a better word, in the history of photography. 1850 saw the first dag studio run by a woman in California. 1850 also marks a point at which commercial photography had become ubiquitous in North America. 1885 saw the birth of film courtesy of George Eastman thus giving rise to the ubiquitous popularity of amateur photography. “You press the button. We do the rest.” I think this changed the nature of studio photography. People still used them, but they were no longer much of the public’s only access to photography anymore. Photography took on a more informal nature outside of the walls of the studio. Ok, I just wanted to get that out, now on to my statement.
I am researching female photographers, specifically female photography studio owners in frontier towns on the Pacific coast of North America from 1850 to 1880. I argue that photography was one of the first vocations in which a person’s gender did not inhibit them from practicing or being financially successful in his or her business endeavors. I also argue that, in the case of women on the Pacific coast, this success was greatly aided by the fact that their businesses were started when this area was considered the frontier and Anglo-Saxon settlement of the area was in its infancy. Populations were small in western cities and towns at this time, but the demand for photographic services were still present placing skilled photographers in high demand and thus allowing for female practitioners to get their foot in the door and establish studios that eventually grew and flourished like cities surrounding them. This study is significant because very little work has been done on female photographers as entrepreneurs. This study aims to fill a significant gap in the scholarship to show that although the economy, as well as the photography trade within that economy, were predominantly male dominated during the time which my study examines women did make a significant contribution to the market and several managed to establish and run successful photographic businesses while gaining the respect of the communities in which their businesses were located.
Back to the subject of borderlands, Dr. Halpin suggested to articles for me to start with. Those are what I squeezed in this week. The first is “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in between in North American History” written by Jeremy Adelman and Stephen Aron. The second is “Borderlands and the Future History of the American West” by Kelly Lytle Hernández. First of all both of these articles helped me understand just what exactly borderlands studies are. I haven’t done a lot of exploration into that field of scholarship prior to this point in time, so that was very helpful. Both articles were nice introductions into the field and the historiography therein, which, is probably why Dr. Halpin suggested them ha ha ha. Both pieces really showed the importance of borderlands studies in our understanding of the changing conceptions of the western frontier. I think both pieces made the argument that they are going to be increasingly important as the field progresses in the next ten, twenty, and thirty years. That was good news for me since I’m incorporating borderlands into my study. The footnotes were incredibly helpful for suggesting some other works to look at, which I definitely intend to do soon.