Ellen Macfarlane

Macfarlane 3-2016

Ellen Macfarlane



Ellen Macfarlane specializes in the history of photography and American art. Her dissertation, “The Photography of Group f.64: Collectivity in Process” focuses on the 1930s Bay Area photography society, Group f.64. The organization is primarily known as a socially-apathetic art photography collective that evangelized straight photography and opposed California pictorialism. Instead, Ellen’s thesis investigates how Depression-era politics was the central problem for the group. Her study explores how f.64’s photography and sense of collectivity shifted several times during its active years as a result of group members’ evolving ideas about the relationship of photographic aesthetics to politics.

Ellen received a B.A. in art history from the University of Southern California in 2006. Before and after graduation, Ellen worked at Bonhams Auctioneers in Los Angeles. In 2011, Ellen earned an M.A. in art history from Rutgers University, and an M.A. from Princeton in 2013. At Rutgers, she wrote a Masters paper on Carrie Mae Weems, and was the Exhibitions Coordinator for the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Art Program.

Presently, Ellen lives in Los Angeles. In 2016-17, she is a Henry Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellow in American Art and the Michael J. Connell Foundation Fellow at the Huntington Library. In 2014-15, she held a Predoctoral Fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and in 2014, Ellen was the Edward Weston Family Research Fellow at the Center For Creative Photography. 

Current Research

Ellen is currently preparing a manuscript on uses of photography in the San Francisco communist newspaper, Western Worker to cover early 1930s California agricultural strikes. The article will be included in a forthcoming special issue on California Foodways in Southern California Quarterly, an interdisciplinary journal published by University of California Press. 


“Group f.64, Rocks, and the Limits of the Political Photograph,” American Art vol. 30, no. 3 (fall 2016): 26-53.

Review of Kathryn E. Delmez, Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video (exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), caa.reviews (2013).

Introduction, in From Ethiopia to New Jersey: Photography and HIV/AIDS (exh. cat. New Brunswick: The Johnson & Johnson Corporate Art Program, 2010).