Stephanie Schwartz is Associate Professor of American Art. Her research and teaching address photography and its histories, with a particular emphasis on American documentary. Stephanie is the author of Walker Evans: No Politics (University of Texas Press, 2020) and the editor of Modernism After Paul Strand, a special issue of the Oxford Art Journal (2015). She is currently writing Forgetting Reagan: Allan Sekula’s Documentary for MACK Books Discourse series.
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Associate Professor in History of Art
Dept of History of Art
Faculty of S&HS
Photography and its histories; documentary; American modernism.
Stephanie is interested in photography and its histories, with a specific focus on the emergence of American documentary in the 1930s. Her first book, Walker Evans: No Politics (University of Texas Press, 2020), offers a sweeping reinterpretation of Evans’s prolific work. Taking seriously Evans’s refusal to act or work politically, his 1935 insistence ‘NO POLITICS whatever’, Walker Evans challenges the established claim that American documentary finds its origins in the politics of the New Deal. Likewise, it questions the assumption that Evans’s work is necessarily about the Great Depression. Framed by a study of the work Evans completed in Cuba during the revolution of 1933, the book situates Evans’s work and documentary in a long history of Americanisation.
Stephanie is currently completing a second book project on the work of Allan Sekula. Preliminarily title Forgetting Reagan: Allan Sekula’s Documentary, the book considers Sekula’s long-held, though rarely discussed, obsession with the figure of Ronald Reagan. Stephanie’s concern is not simply with the fact that this obsession has not been addressed in the extensive literature on Sekula’s prolific production—that it has been forgotten. It is with what this tells us about a desire to forget the centrality of the writing of national histories to Reagan’s work and the work of American documentary. The appeal of photography’s global turn, of which Sekula’s practice has been deemed representative, Stephanie argues, represses the writing of national and local histories of colonialism and imperialism that need to be accounted for as Sekula’s work.
Forgetting Reagan speaks to contemporary nostalgia for a lost past or a ‘lost cause’, a concern also at the centre Stephanie’s ongoing research on the filmography of Paul Strand and the international collective Frontier Films. Focusing on the collective’s final production, Native Land (1942), this project attends to the fight against fascism that animates much cultural work of the late 1930s and early 1940s. More specifically, it addresses documentary practices contending with Langston Hughes’s insistence that fascism was ‘native’ to America. An study of how nativity was reimagined in the wake of Depression, when the nation needed, once again, to represent itself as unified, Stephanie’s research speaks to contemporary concerns about how to address recent nativist impulses and the emergence of new or late fascisms in America.
Forgetting Reagan: Allan Sekula’s Documentary. London: MACK, forthcoming.
Walker Evans: No Politics. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2020.
‘Street Photography Reframed’, Arts 10, 29 (2021): 1-12.
‘Martha Rosler’s Protest’, Arts 9, 92 (2020): 1-20.
‘Revolution and After’, October 158 (Fall 2016): 126-154.
‘Writing After’, an introduction to ‘Modernism After Paul Strand’, a special issue of Oxford Art Journal 38, no.1 (March 2015): 1-10.
‘Late Work: Walker Evans and Fortune’, Oxford Art Journal 38, no.1 (March 2015): 117-141.
‘Paul Strand’s Living Labor’, ARTMargins 2, no. 3 (October 2013): 3-30.
‘Tania Bruguera: Between Histories’, Oxford Art Journal 35, no. 2 (June 2012): 215-232.
Chapters in Books
‘On Social Photography’ in Documentary Genealogies, 1848-1917, ed. Jorge Ribalta (Madrid: Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia, 2022), forthcoming.
‘Is This What Democracy Looks Like? Tania Bruguera and the Politics of Performance’, in Alejandro Anreus, Robin Greeley, and Megan Sullivan (eds) Companion to Modern and Contemporary Latin American and Latino Art, eds. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2022), pp. 410-422.
‘The Face of Protest’, in Hilde van Gelder (ed) Dissembled Images: Contemporary Art After Allan Sekula (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2019), pp. 212-227.
‘La toma larga (The Long Take)’, Monumento máquina: Jorge Ribalta (Cáceres: Centro José Guerrero y Fundación Helga de Alvear, 2015), pp. 82-99.
‘Lightness and Lethargy’ in Jordi Barreras, Already But Not Yet (Rome: Punctum Press, 2020).
‘Monumental Failure: The Face of Bigotry’, Art Monthly 471 (June 2018): 38-39.
‘Waiting for Tear Gas’, Tate: In Focus, November 2016.
‘Making the News’, International New Media Gallery, February 2015
‘This Ain't The Swiss Family Robinson’, Photoworks 20 (October 2013): 146-153.
‘Between Labour and Intellect: Jorge Ribalta’s Anonymous Work’, Philosophy of Photography 3, no. 2 (2013): 358-365.
‘Oral History Interview with Martha Rosler, December 17-18, 2019’, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute.
‘Another Walker Evans: Photography, Writing and the Magazine Page’, an interview with David Campany, in Krakow Photomonth Festival (Krakow, 2014), pp. 36-65. (Reprinted in Photography & Culture 7, no. 2 (July 2014): 189-198.)
‘Documentary’s Future Past: A Conversation with Jorge Ribalta’, Photoworks 18 (May 2012): 50-57. (Reprinted in Spanish in Luna Córnea 34 (2013): 324-339.)
‘Chronicles: A Conversation with Manuel Piña’, Third Text 110 (May 2011): 361-383.
'Our Future', a review of Steve Edwards, Martha Rosler: The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems, Art Journal 72, no. (Summer 2013): 124-126.
"Beyond Looking," a review of Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera, edited by Sandra Phillips and Jonathan Finn, Capturing the Criminal: From Mug Shot to Surveillance Society, Oxford Art Journal 33, no. 3 (November 2010): 389-92.
"Pictures, Again," a review of Words without Pictures, edited by Charlotte Cotton and Alex Klein, Art Journal 68, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 87-9.
Teaching and Supervision
Stephanie teaches undergraduate courses on photography and American visual culture, including:
- The Principles and Pleasures of Surveillance
- American Geographies: Figuring the West, 1848-1914
- Histories of Photography
- On Property: Land, Labour and Photography in the United States
She also teaches a MA Special Subject entitled ‘American Documentary: Inventions, Reinventions and Afterlives’.
She is interested in supervising doctoral dissertations on photography and its histories, documentary and American art, including film, video, theatre, performance, dance and television.
Prospective students should contact her directly to discuss their proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current PhD Students:
Daniel Ward, ‘Antinomies of Video: Collective Filmmaking and State Apparatus in the UK 1982-2000’.
Tom Cornelius, ‘American Surfaces: Topographies of the New West’.
Jacqueline Mabey, ‘This Must Be the Place: Mapping Artistic Kinship and Economic Change in Downtown New York, 1973–1987’.
Rebecca Van Straten, ‘Olivetti: Typing a History of Italian Photography’.
Past Research Students:
Freya Field-Donovan, ‘A Strange American Funeral: Dance and Technological Reproduction in 1940s America’, awarded June 2022.
Kimberly Schreiber, ‘Still Lives in Changing Times: Documentary and the American Carceral State, 1964-1980’, awarded June 2022.
Stephanie King, ‘The Less Acceptable Face of Capitalism: A Study of British Documentary During the Rise of Thatcherism’, awarded December 2019.
Andrew Witt, ‘On the Edge of Catastrophe: California and the Dystopian Image, c. 1970’, awarded November 2016.
Larne Abse Gogarty, ‘Rehearsals, Reproduction, and the Art of Living: Historicising Social Practise in the USA’, awarded June 2015.
Stephanie is Associate Professor of American Art at University College London. She received her PhD from Columbia University in 2007. She was the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in History and Theory of Photography at Bryn Mawr College from 2007-2009 and the Andrew W. Mellow Research Forum Postdoctoral Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art from 2009-2010. She joined the History of Art department at UCL in 2010.