How images shape international relations

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The role photography has played in the historic relationship between Australasia and the United States will soon be explored in an international symposium bringing together leading and emerging scholars from across the globe.

Broken Images is a three-day event designed to look at how imagery has shaped cross cultural perceptions and according to convenor Dr Prue Ahrens of the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, aims to enrich our understanding of photography’s often hidden influence.

“This symposium comes at a time when the United States and the Asia Pacific are increasingly engaged – politically, economically, culturally,” she explains.

“What we’re aiming to do is to sketch a history for this present engagement, trace the broken links in the region and discover photography’s role in cross-cultural exchange.

“Photography can wield tremendous influence, even more so historically than it does now.

“The images people viewed were often their only windows into such regions, so photographs were largely responsible for shaping popular views on foreign worlds,” she says.

International speakers will include Dr Erika Esau (Los Angeles County Museum of Art); Professor Lamont Lindstrom (University of Tulsa, Oklahoma); Dr Max Quanchi (University of the South Pacific, Fiji); Dr Melissa Renn (Harvard Art Museums); Dr Mark Rice (St John Fisher College, New York). Panel speakers include Gael Newton (National Gallery of Australia) and Dr Jennifer Watts (The Huntington Library and Art Collections, Los Angeles).

The power of photography

The symposium will highlight themes such as photography’s contribution to American empire and global culture; image transmission through travel, tourism and war; image consumption through exhibitions, albums, magazines and postcards; the photograph as a source for painting and other visual imagery; and the photographic collections of importance.

Dr Ahrens, an expert on American art in the Pacific and recipient of awards from the Smithsonian, Huntington Library and Yale University, believes the event is ideal for anyone involved in the arts or archival preservation, or for those from US interest, cultural or diplomatic groups, as well as any visual culture enthusiasts.

“It’s a great opportunity for interested members of the public to join in focussed discussion with leading scholars from all over the world and to walk away with a clearer understanding of the relationship between Australasia and the United States over the last 100 years,” she says.

The symposium is presented by Griffith Centre for Cultural Research and funded by the Terra Foundation, renowned for fostering exploration, understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States for international audiences. It will be hosted by the Queensland Art Gallery’s Australian Centre of Asia Pacific Arts (ACAPA).

The symposium also features an Early Career Researcher forum on the afternoon of July 2, followed by a public panel on Important Collections of American Photography, at the Queensland Art Gallery, from 6.00pm to 7.00pm, chaired by Kate Evans (Radio National).

Broken Images Symposium

Wednesday 2 – Friday 4 July

Queensland Art Gallery Lecture Theatre, South Bank

Opening Night Book Launch

7pm, Wednesday 2 July, QAG Sculpture Garden

Dr Erika Esau, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will launch Across the world with the Johnsons: Visual Culture and American Empire in the Twentieth Century, co-authored by Prue Ahrens, Lamont Lindstrom and Fiona Paisley, (Ashgate, 2013).

Dr Prue Ahrens, expert on American art in the Pacific and recipient of awards from the Smithsonian, Huntington Library and Yale University, will lead the Broken Images symposium this July.

Dr Prue Ahrens, expert on American art in the Pacific and recipient of awards from the Smithsonian, Huntington Library and Yale University, will lead the Broken Images symposium this July.

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