Fellowship funds Hershberger’s look at photography’s ‘dark side’

Traditionally, photographic negatives are seen as the step between taking the photo and printing it, the raw material with which the photographer works to achieve the desired result.

Dr. Andrew Hershberger
Dr. Andrew Hershberger

But a number of photographers have experimented with using the negative itself—that reversed image—to create striking results. Dr. Andrew Hershberger, art history, has long been interested in the negative print and will further his study of the art form and the artists who create it with a Coleman Dowell Fellowship for Study on Experimental Works this summer at New York University.

He will use the $2,500 grant to continue his project on “The Dark Side of Photography,” studying the work of negative-print artist David Wojnarowicz. A New York artist who died in 1992, Wojnarowicz embraced the negative print as a regular format in his work. Hershberger will conduct his research in the David Wojnarowicz Archive at NYU’s Fales Library and Special Collections.

The new research is an expansion of the work he began with a 2004 Ansel Adams Research Fellowship at the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography, a collection with hundreds of negative prints by numerous artists. Hershberger now plans to delve into Wojnarowicz's papers, correspondence, negatives and negative prints with an eye toward discovering why this artist chose to work with negative imagery, what impact he thought it would have on the viewer, and how he might have seen the history of that process in relation to his own approach. Ultimately, Hershberger will try to identify a "general" theory of the negative print for a future publication and/or exhibition.

Named after the postmodern novelist, the Coleman Dowell Fellowship enables visiting scholars to do in-depth research with the Fales collections, which are a major repository for New York experimental work.

A contemporary art history specialist, Hershberger wrote in his doctoral dissertation about mid-20th-century American photographer Minor White’s use of negative images. He has been a BGSU faculty member since 2001, the same year he earned his Ph.D. in art and archeology at Princeton University. He received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Arizona and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago and Princeton.

From 1998-2001, Hershberger was curatorial and research assistant and cataloger at the Photography Study Center at Princeton’s University Art Museum. He has co-curated three photography exhibitions there, and his photographs and short films have been part of gallery shows and screenings elsewhere. He has been honored by the American Institute of Architects for his photographs.

February 5, 2007