A ton of information is embedded in historic photographs, especially when the images include artisans and handmade objects. In this episode of the Artisan Ancestors, I talk about my work identifying, organizing, and analyzing historic photograms. Focusing on my work with pictures of oak rod baskets from Southern Indiana, I share how images can be read to reveal greater amounts of data than what might first be apparent. By looking at a collection of images over time, the researcher can understand shifts in feelings and attitudes about folk crafts. I reference my article, “A Picture of an Old Country Store” as an example of this type of deep reading of images.
Historic photographs are important resources for scholars of handmade objects. They can reflect the everyday use of objects from the past, manifest the variations in crafts over time, record the aesthetic values embedded in objects that have not survived to the present era, and also, document aspects of the construction process of earlier generations. In this podcast I explore more details about each of these reasons.
I also review some of the basic research methods for studying photographs, such as photo inventorying, contextual analysis, and photo interviewing., all of which help researchers both expand and focus their observations.