Interview with Alison Nordström
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
By Erin Wederbrook Yuskaitis, PRC Program & Exhibition Manager
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing this year’s EXPOSURE juror, Alison Nordström, over the phone. During a forty-minute conversation, we discussed her role at George Eastman House, where photography is going in the coming decades, and the rise of digital images made by mobile devices.
1. What is your favorite part of working at George Eastman House?
“At George Eastman House I serve as Senior Curator of Photographs and Director of Exhibitions and run a graduate school. Although these are separate jobs, they are inextricably intertwined. In fact, my favorite aspect of working at the Eastman House has to do with the pictures in the collection – studying them in my capacity as curator, showing them to students in my capacity as professor, or organizing them into an exhibition or publication in my capacity as Director of Exhibitions – but my passion always comes back to the objects themselves.”
2. What are some of your upcoming projects at George Eastman House?
“We’ve just opened Untold Stories, a collection survey, in response to the ludicrous situation of having millions of photographs but showing the same 500 or so over and over. This exhibition is about 320 photos broken up into series, or groups of photos, ten to twelve at a time, work we’ve never shown before. Some are recent acquisitions but others have never been shown publically because they were sitting in a box in our archives. Our holdings of Ansel Adams are so broad that we pulled [images] from his earliest portfolios – a nice change from the very familiar Moonrise and Half-Dome. Another big project is our exhibition on Lewis Hine. Eastman House acquired the photographic contents of Hine’s house when he died, some 10,000 objects in total, so we now have 400 objects in an exhibition traveling in Europe [to three different venues]. He’s not as well known in Europe, so we feel we changed the discourse about Hine; people are seeing work of his they never associated with him. We didn’t want to show just child labor or the Empire State Building, we wanted to show those in context with many other Hine photographs.