Flash! Photography, Writing, and Surprising Illumination


ACLS Fellowship Program


English and Art History


Flash photography is radically different from all other forms of photography, and this project asks what distinguishes the medium and its impact. Situating flash at the intersection of material history, technological change, and imaginative expression, it examines how the language of photography moves between art and science, between specialist aesthetics and popular imagination, between fascination and revulsion. In so doing, it draws on photographic manuals and memoirs, lyric poetry and crime fiction, advertisements and film—as well as analyzing many striking images. It shows how this one area of invention, bridging the instrumental and the aesthetic, reveals previously invisible connections among commercial, industrial, artistic, and domestic spheres during the past 150 years. It explores the problems of translating visual impact into verbal language, and of finding an adequate vocabulary for the technological shocks of modernity.