This dispatch comes from Dr. Steve Hoelscher, who has spent this summer with photography in Germany, France, and Texas:
I’ve spent my “summer vacation” looking at thousands of photographs, researching them, thinking about them, and writing about them. Sometimes, this has taken me to attractive places. Like Frankfurt, Germany, the center of the Euro crisis and where the Occupy Movement has taken hold and become something of a tourist attraction.
And like Arles, France, where I met and talked with many of the photographers I’m writing about. One conversation was with the photographer whose 1963 portrait of a cigar-chewing Che Guevara has become something of a cultural icon, finding its way onto t-shirts, posters, and coffee mugs around the world; another photographer has spent the nine years since graduating with a history major documenting the war in Afghanistan and its traumatic impact on veterans and families on the homefront; and another had just arrived from the Mauritania-Mali border, where he spent a month with some of the tens of thousands of refugees who had recently fled Mali. I thought it was revealing that the exhibit that caught the most attention at the Les Rencontres d’Arles, the celebrated international photography festival that emphasizes cutting-edge conceptual art, focused on the photojournalist Josef Koudelka’s decade-long “gypsies of Europe” project from the 1960s.
Most of my time, though, has been spent in the more mundane spaces of my writing desk and at the Ransom Center’s photo archive. One of the cruel realities of post-tenure life is that deadlines don’t go away and I’ve been logging in long days working to meet this one (I am grateful to my American Studies colleagues who have taken time away from their own “summer vacations” to read portions of a much labored-over manuscript). Summer vacation (without the scare quotes) begins for me after noon, on August first, when the book leaves my hands and I board a plane, with my family, to the Midwestern homeland.