Archival Science

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 85–101

Framing photographs, denying archives: the difficulty of focusing on archival photographs

Original paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10502-009-9081-6

Cite this article as:
Schlak, T. Arch Sci (2008) 8: 85. doi:10.1007/s10502-009-9081-6


This article pursues the varying understandings of the photograph in archival literature. An in-depth review of the scholarship uncovers several possible reasons why archivists and those writing about photographic archives apparently continue to struggle with the photograph, including: the sheer difficulty that photographs as an elusive medium present; past debates about photography in art history, history, and archival literature; and the challenges that the photograph as an evasive document presents to the contradictory nature of archives themselves and to conceptions of archival science. Having evolved from an understanding of photographs that conflated content with meaning to postmodernist notions of contingent and plural meanings in which photographs participate, archival writings on the photograph hold promise as they begin to tread the waters that Schwartz charted in the last 15 years. This paper follows that historical progression in order to trace the discourse on photographic archives that has emerged over the past three decades.



Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Information SciencesUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA