The Black Star Collection at The Image Centre: the expectations, challenges, and results of a decade of research in a key photo agency's print collection.
In 2005, Toronto Metropolitan (formerly Ryerson) University (TMU) acquired the massive Black Star Collection from the photo agency previously based in New York City—nearly 292,000 black-and-white prints. Preserved at The Image Centre at TMU, the images include iconic stills of the American Civil Rights movement by Charles Moore, among thousands of ordinary photographs that were classified by theme in the agency's picture library. While the move of the collection from a corporate photo agency to a public cultural institution enables more access, researchers must still face the size of the collection, its structural organization, the materiality of the prints, and the lack of ephemera. Facing Black Star aims to fruitfully highlight this tension between research expectations and challenges.
Coeditors Thierry Gervais and Vincent Lavoie have gathered local, national, and international researchers ranging from graduate students to established scholars and curators to illuminate the staggering range of the collection, from its disquieting record of the Nazis' rise to power to its visual archive of climate change. Each contribution highlights methodological, epistemological, and political issues inherent to conducting research in photographic archives and collections, such as indexing protocols and their impact on research, the photographic archive as a place of visibility and invisibility, and the photographic archive as a hermeneutic tool.
Shedding new light on current issues in the theory and history of photography, this impressive volume containing 100 images will not only discuss the subjects portrayed in the photographs but will also address the history of photojournalism, the role of such a photographic archive in our Western societies, and ultimately photography as a medium.
Like the other volumes of the RIC Booksseries (MIT Press/The Image Centre [formerly the Ryerson Image Centre]), this publication will appeal as much to academics of visual history as it will to photography enthusiasts in general.
Thierry Gervais is Associate Professor at the School of Image Arts and Head of Research at The Image Centre, both at Toronto Metropolitan University. He is the author, with Gaëlle Morel, of The Making of Visual News: A History of Photography in the Press, and the series editor of RIC Books, which he launched in 2016.
Vincent Lavoie is Professor of Art History at University of Quebec and a member of Figura Research Center, both in Montreal, QC. He is the author of Photojournalismes: Revoir les canons de l'image de presse and L'Affaire Capa: Le procès d'une icône and the editor of La preuve par l'image.