Picturing Faith at the AAR



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Paul Harvey

I'm live-blogging the AAR! Not really. More like, on the train from O'Hare into Chicago for the American Academy of Religion, I had the good fortune to run into my colleague Colleen McDannell, of the University of Utah. As I wrote in a blog entry below, Colleen was a mentor in teaching me more successfully to integrate the visual into my thinking and teaching on American religious history, which I've tried to incorporate into my upcoming Lamar lectures.

Some years ago, I brought to my campus Colleen's wonderful exhibition Picturing Faith, an exhibit of Farm Security Administration photographs from 1935-1943 which accompanies her book Picturing Faith: Photography and the Great Depression. She introduced me to some photographs that I included in my book Freedom's Coming. She also showed me some ways to think about the relationship of the religious and the visual, both in her work Material Christianity and in the book on photography.

A nice web compilation of photographs that are included in Picturing Faith may be found here. A review of Colleen's exhibition is here. The reviewer states:

The exhibit's multiple functions speak not only to McDannell's skill in the integration of material objects and texts but also to the broader issues in historical method she has been pursuing for some time. There is a palpable tension between observing the photographs on their own terms and reading them along with McDannell. Just entering the exhibit presents one with the dilemma of what to do first—read or look? In this way the exhibit serves to break up our casual habits of historical thinking and asks us to reconsider our assumptions about the disparities between reading and looking.

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