1.1. Visualizing the past


Visualizing the past



Carol Quirke, SUNY Old Westbury

Historian exploring intersection of 20th century photography and social movements, particularly the labor movement, currently investigating postwar representations of U.S. labor. Author: Eyes on Labor: News Photography and America’s Working Class (OUP: 2012) and Dorothea Lange, Documentary Photography and Twentieth Century America (Routledge: 2019). Articles in Radical History Review, American Quarterly, and History Now.  

Lucy Newton, University of Reading

Lucy is an expert in the field of UK retail bank history, a history of UK corporate governance and the history, manufacture, and marketing of pianos, all in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Along with Vicky Barnes, she has recently used an array of visual material – portraits, banknotes, etc – to analyze 19th-century finance.

The chair of this session is Beatriz Rodriguez-Satizabal (Universidad del Pacífico)

Description of workshop 

The visual turn transpired more than a generation ago.  Peter Burke noted its significance in his Varieties of Cultural History (1997) and October published an issue where top art historians attacked the move to the broader field of “visual culture” divorced from the discipline of art history, a year before that.  Yet many believe historians have not gotten the message.  Cultural historians and curators Georgia Barnhill and Josh Brown have written about the nation’s iconophobia in Common-Place, which may well describe historians’ discomfort with the image. Similarly, Lou Masur wrote for the Journal of American History in “Pictures Have Now Become a Necessity,” that text book historians “would never discuss the American Revolution, Civil War, New Deal, or civil rights movement without relying upon hundreds of pages of written primary sources, yet most of them ignore the role images played in these events.” That was two decades ago.  But just last week an academic, @noisybits, suggested that historians remain naïve about imagery.  “Common annoyance: historians who in 2022 ‘argue’ that images have meaning, that they are fundamental for how people communicate and think themselves and others, and therefore have historiographical value.  Like Art History, Visual Culture, or Cultural Studies never existed.”  

This workshop’s starting point is images of labor and business.  We will examine selected images—photojournalistic, documentary, art, corporate, advertising, and bank notes, and a range of methods—compositional, iconographic, anthropological, visual cultural studies, and of course historical, in discussing the promise of visual sources in business history.


For more information or if you wish to participate in this workshop, please check this document.