Just back on the weekend from a trip to my first IVSA (International Visual Sociology Association) conference, in Saratoga Springs, NY. What a fascinating group of people: sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, documentarians and artists all come together to explore the intersection of visual culture and society. A very international group, too, and welcoming to new members like me. I think I’ll have to straddle IVSA and ISSRM as academic homes from now on. Hoping to get to Dublin for IVSA2020.
Highlights were many. John Grady’s categorization of picture-making traditions was compelling, as was Anna Sarzynska’s typology of the unintended impacts of tourist photography and Celine Missoorten’s observations on reasons for the rebirth of analog photography and slow media. Dee Britton took a compelling semi-quantitative approach to explore Civil War memorials spatially and over time, feeding into documentary footage from Charlottesville shared by Joyce Sebag and Jean-Pierre Durand, and a reimagining of the Virginia state flag by Eric Sencindiver. Relebohile Moletsane explored the academic push-back she has received about using PhotoVoice with South African girls documenting their sexual abuse. One session about using photos and PhotoVoice in the university setting had lots of great ideas for my qualitative class, and inspired a fascinating discussion about how to represent minority students in university marketing. Australian documentary filmmaker Catherine Gough-Brady explored our capacity to empathize without a hero, and US filmmaker Kathy Kasic described her ‘sensory verite’ approach in documenting Antarctic ice core research. Documentaries were playing in an adjacent room, of which I caught Expect Delays (by Gough-Brady) and parts of Arrhythmia and The Area. Plenary guests Youth FX/Rogue FX blew us all away as a model for empowerment and training.
Canadians were outstanding, as is to be expected: Carolina Cambre and Christine Lawrence shared work on teens and selfie filters in Canada; Jean Slick painted the Fort McMurray evacuation experience from YouTube videos from dash cams (see one above); and Guillaume Clermont passed over a dozen paintings around the room to make tangible his points on reproduction, ‘originality’ and the ‘image flood’. The sessions were very well organized thematically, with lots of time for rich discussion. My discussion of culturomic tools was well received, fitting nicely into Paolo Faveri’s exploration of GPS tracking tools and other means of revealing the forces that drive how people use our urban spaces, and Christine Louveau de la Guignereye on the challenges of engaging with new media including coding literacy, asking: “is multimedia like Esperanto, a false good idea?”
While loathe to leave, I was excited to hop back on the Amtrak to Montreal, by which I’d also arrived. The trip is a stunning one, along Lac Champlain and adjacent rivers, looking across high water levels and heron-rich wetlands to Mountains in Vermont. Well worth the US$92 return price. I’d do it just for fun, but the train was almost empty. People of Montreal, what are you doing?