Artist, Oeuvre, Corpus and Archive: Thinking through Zophia Rydet’s Photographic Legacy
A lecture by Abigail Solomon-Godeau

An archival collection of a photographer’s production, one whose scale is as immense as Rydet’s, confronts us with a knot of contradictions and an array of epistemological complexities.

Where “survey” photographic projects have a long history, they were typically collective productions, often as not the product of official commission and definition. It is only in the twentieth century that individual photographers created massive bodies of work outside of institutional initiatives (e.g., Eugene Atget, August Sander, or more recently, Gary Winogrand and the recently discovered Vivian Maier).

Such production puts pressure both on the abstract notion of the archive and on the art historical notion of the oeuvre. Consideration of the work of Rydet – some of which she organized thematically, and all of which is now constituted as an archive – provides a speculative field with which to reflect on the nature of an individual corpus that intersects with archival, historical, generic, and institutional determinations and instrumentalities. 

Abigail Solomon-Godeau - Critic, curator, historian of photography, feminist. Professor Emerita of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Author of the acclaimed Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institutions, and Practices (1991). Currently works on a new book, The Face of Difference: Gender, Race and the Politics of Self-Representation. She published in such journals and magazines as Art in America, Artforum, Afterimage, October, or Screen.

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