I’m a writer and a historian of photography, culture, ideas, and media. I was raised in Rochester, New York, home of Eastman Kodak, where Instamatic cameras and those crinkly Sylvania flashbulbs were a staple of late 20th-century visual culture. I’m fascinated by the dynamics that connect images, technology, and culture, and you’re just as likely to find me learning how to make photographs with the first nineteenth-century process as you are contemplating what exactly Instagram is doing to photography. I’ve written about photography, digitization and archives, the visual culture of the internet, and the social forces that shaped nineteeneth-century American art.
I’m an essayist at heart. One of the inspirations for my writing–on subjects as diverse as travel in China to the art that hangs on my walls–is the idea of the camera’s viewfinder–looking out into the world, I’m always framing what I see, selecting details, and arranging an image. I’ve studied with Jane Brox, Patricia Hampl, and Vivian Gornick. From time to time I teach narrative non-fiction and memoir through the Harvard Extension School, which I will do again in the fall of 2013 (registration begins in late July).
I’ve just completed a book manuscript on the ways that popular photographic portraiture helped Americans imagine the nation during the Civil War. The project was completed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research at Brown University, and the American Historical Association.
I teach in the writing program at Boston University. I’ve taught art history, US history, literature, and American Studies at Harvard, Tufts, Colby College, and Rutgers University.