School Photos

December 2019, University of Washington Press

From clandestine images of Jewish children isolated in Nazi ghettos and Japanese American children incarcerated in camps to images of Native children removed to North American boarding schools, classroom photographs of schoolchildren are pervasive even in repressive historical and political contexts. School Photos in Liquid Time offers a closer look at this genre of vernacular photography, tracing how photography advances ideologies of social assimilation as well as those of hierarchy and exclusion. In Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer’s deft analysis, school photographs reveal connections between the histories of persecuted subjects in different national and imperial centers.

Exploring what this ubiquitous and mundane but understudied genre tells us about domination as well as resistance, the authors examine school photos as documents of social life and agents of transformation. They place them in dialogue with works by contemporary artists who reframe, remediate, and elucidate them. Ambitious yet accessible, School Photos in Liquid Time presents school photography as a new access point into institutions of power, revealing the capacity of past and present actors to disrupt and reinvent them.

Book Reviews

“The Institutional Gaze of the School” by Griselda Pollock in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Related Publications

School Photos and Their Afterlives” (with Leo Spitzer). Feeling Photography, edited by Elspeth H. Brown and Thy Phu, Duke University Press, 2014, pp. 252-272.

“The Afterlife of Class Photos: Schooling, Assimilation, Exclusion” (with Leo Spitzer). Partizipation und Exklusion: Zur Habsburger Praegung von Sprache und Bildung in der Bukowina, edited by Markus Winkler, Verlag Friedrich Puster, 2016.

Related Events

See the Exhibit: School Photos and Their Afterlives, with Leo Spitzer, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2020

“School Photos in Troubled Times,” Andrés Bello Central Archive, Santiago, Chile, June 2018.

“School Photos in Holocaust Europe” (With Leo Spitzer), Keynote, Conference on The Afterlife of the Shoah in East Central Europe, Hamburg University, June 2017.

“School Photos and Their Afterlives: Assimilation, Exclusion, Resistance,” Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), South Africa, May/June 2014.

“School Photos and Their Afterlives: A Comparative Jewish Perspective,” Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, March 31-April 2, 2014.

“School Photos in Liquid Time: Assimilation, Exclusion, Resistance,” Seminar on Politics, Literature and the Arts, Harvard University, February 24, 2014.

“School Photos in Liquid Time: Assimilation, Exclusion, Resistance,” University of Massachusetts, Amherst, October 17, 2013.