International Symposium "The Colors of Photography"

in honor of Dr. h.c. Kaspar M. Fleischmann October 30-31, 2015, University of Zurich

The University of Zurich and the Center for Studies in the Theory and History of Photography at the Institute of Art History are pleased to announce the international symposium “The Colors of Photography” held in honor of Kaspar M. Fleischmann. The symposium celebrates Kaspar M. Fleischmann’s 70th birthday as well as his honorary doctorate granted by the University of Zurich in April 2015.

The colors of photography have attracted growing academic interest in recent years. First of all, the digital age has led to an increasing visibility of color(s) in early photography. Digital reproductions of photographic archive materials have revealed once more and very clearly that pictures are not just black and white but bear a wide range of different tonal values from brown, red, and ochre, to blue and grey. Secondly, the history of classical black and white photography is a history of a wide range of tonal values. Thirdly, whole oeuvres of color photography have come to the fore which were made by practitioners who are best known as radically black and white photographers. All this makes it necessary to call the traditional history of color photography into question and go beyond its techno-historical, teleological and biographical approach.

The symposium “The Colors of Photography” is dedicated to achieving a deeper understanding of what color is in the field of photography while also considering black and white as both an aesthetic idiom during specific periods in the history of the medium and as a metaphorical means of expression. Color photography “delivered a world that was too real and not real enough,” writes John Rohrbach as he calls on the paradoxical concept of color in photography in his 2013 catalogue Color: American Photography Transformed. The use of color draws an analogy between photographic seeing and the perception of the human eye. At the same time, color seems to prevent the realism and objectivity of “straight photography” and instead points to naturalism and subjectivity. Until today, color photography marks the “here and now” in photography while black and white photographs are strongly linked to our image of history and form our collective memory. However, such general dichotomies start to crumble according to a disclosure of the aesthetic, cultural, and political complexity of color in photography.

Color photography has been established on the art market and in museum collections – not least because of supporters like Kaspar M. Fleischmann who presented the autochromes of Heinrich Kühn already in 1981 in his Zurich-based Galerie zur Stockeregg.
Not only as gallery owner but as connoisseur and collector of photography, Kaspar M. Fleischmann has been tirelessly dedicated to the support and advance of photography over the last 40 years. In 2006, the University of Zurich and the Dr. Carlo Fleischmann Foundation under Kaspar M. Fleischmann’s leadership established the Center for Studies in the Theory and History of Photography at the Institute of Art History. It has been Kaspar M. Fleischmann’s professional and personal engagement that made possible the successful program of study in the theory and history of photography and numerous research projects such as the publication series Studies in Theory and History of Photography, international conferences and lecture series, as well as scholarships for visiting artists and scholars.

Symposium Program (PDF, 131 KB)

The evening lecture on Friday, October 30, 2015 will be given in German and translated into English. avl interpreter carries out the simultaneous translation German – English.

Concept and Organization
Prof. Dr. Bettina Gockel, Chair for the History of Fine Arts, in collaboration with Dr. Nanni Baltzer and Dr. Sophie Junge Center for Studies in the Theory and History of Photography

Funded by the University of Zurich