Blog / Beauty, Photography and Beyond



By Alex Harris

One of the central mysteries of life – and as it turns out, of photography and of art – is the relationship between human beings and beauty.  What is “beautiful” to an individual, and why?  Why for instance might a photographer be drawn to make a beautiful picture of another person’s suffering; and equally puzzling, why might a viewer find such an image beautiful?  And why is it that in freezing a moment – the stopping of time that occurs in every still photograph – practically anything can be rendered beautiful?  How have photographers used this fact to shape our responses to the world around us?

These questions and others will be discussed by an extraordinary group of contemporary photographers, curators and writers at a free symposium, “Beyond Beauty: Conversations on Photography,” at the Nasher Museum on Friday, October 2, 1-6 p.m.

Speakers include photographers Dawoud Bey, Bill Burke, Eric Gottesman, Laurel Nakadate, Susan Meiselas, Tom Rankin, and Deborah Willis, as well as Philip Brookman of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Alison Nordström of the George Eastman House. Paul Hendrickson, Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will conclude the conference with a talk about the archive’s role in preserving and providing access to a society’s photographic heritage.

The Oct. 2 event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited, so please plan to arrive early. Parking is available for an hourly fee at the Nasher Museum and also Sarah P. Duke Gardens parking lots.

Co-sponsored by the Archive of Documentary Arts at the Special Collections Library, the Center for Documentary Studies, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

IMAGE: Alex Harris, Calle Sol and Cuba, Habana Vieja, looking north from Alberto Rojas’s 1951 Plymouth, Havana, May 23, 1998.  Lambda type C print, 24 x 30 inches. The Duke University Special Collections Library.

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