Elizabeth Anne McCauleyDavid Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art
Ph.D., Yale University, 1980
Professor McCauley’s interests range widely across 19th- and early-20th-century visual culture, with a particular focus on the history of photography. Her early work dealt with the institutional formation of commercial photography (which was, in fact, most of photography) during the first generation of negative-positive prints in the 1850s–60s, and she remains concerned with the ways that economic and political forces shape the social status and ideological messages of the photographic. While advocating close looking at original prints and a fundamental understanding of the limits placed on imagery by the techniques used (she has sponsored workshops on Talbot’s calotype process and collodion-on-glass positives for various seminars), she also probes the societal conditions that make possible the shooting, publishing, and dissemination of photographs. She welcomes students working outside the Western canon of art photographs, as well as those who want to reconsider major figures who have not received critical treatment.
Other areas in which McCauley has published include the history of caricature, American and European modernist collectors, the historiography of photography, the nude, early anthropological photography, Realism in art and photography, concepts of copyright and originality, Victorian feminism and amateur photography in the 19th century, and the impact of photography on art history as a discipline. Her most recent work has been involved with critical reappraisals of early-20th-century American photography. In The Steerage and Alfred Stieglitz, coauthored with Jason Francisco (2012), she considered Stieglitz’s role as a writer in constructing the myth of The Steerage as a modernist icon. She has also uncovered the connections between spiritualism (and theosophy) and abstraction, as seen in the careers of Francis Bruguière and Alvin Langdon Coburn.
Professor McCauley believes in teaching from original objects and therefore tailors her courses to take advantage of exhibitions and local holdings that students can experience firsthand. Her history of photography surveys have weekly meetings in the photography study room of the Princeton University Art Museum, and her seminars are often held in the museum or Firestone Library. She has taught undergraduate classes on photography and society; an introduction to museum history, theory, and practice; Pre-Raphaelite photography and painting; and 19th-century caricature. Her graduate courses have ranged from an examination of the philosophical, technological, and aesthetic forces that resulted in the multiple inventions of photography in the early 19th century to an overview of the various motivations for making “abstract” photographs.
McCauley’s current research concerns American modernist photography during World War I and the role of the war in stimulating stylistic innovations and the collapse of Pictorialism. She is also preparing a book on the nude and photography and completing an essay on the critical reception of Manet’s Olympia in light of debates over evolution and race in the 1860s.
“Witch Work, Art Work, and the Spiritual Roots of Abstraction: Ezra Pound, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and the Vortographs,” in Vorticism: New Perspectives, ed. Mark Antliff and Scott W. Klein (Oxford University Press, 2013).
“The ‘Big Show’ and the Little Galleries: Alfred Stieglitz and the Search for Modern Art Photography,” in The Armory Show at 100: Modernism and Revolution, ed. Marilyn Satin Kushner and Kimberly Orcutt (New-York Historical Society, 2013).
“Rethinking Woman in the Age of Psychoanalysis: Alfred Stieglitz’s Photographs of the Female Nude,” in American Photography: Local and Global Contexts, ed. Bettina Gockel (Akademie Verlag, 2012).
“Photography, Fashion, and the Cult of Appearances,” in Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity, exhibition catalogue, ed. Gloria Groom (Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Musée d’Orsay, 2012).
“Secret Seraglios: Tracking the Female Nude in the History of Nineteenth-Century Photography,” in Histoire de l’art du XIXe siècle (1848–1914): Bilans et perspectives, ed. Claire Barbillon, Catherine Chevillot, and François-René Martin (École du Louvre, 2012).