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Vernaculars in Translation: 'A Cold War Tourist and His Camera'

Authors: Langford, Martha
Keywords: photography;Cold War;photo archives
Issue Date: 23-Feb-2011
Abstract: Cold War culture presents as a binary system: East and West; encirclement and containment; international communism and democratic capitalism; patriotism and contagion; escalation and detente. This dual pattern is also stamped on photographic culture and experience. Iconic Modernist photography, exemplified by the era's picture magazines and photographic exhibitions, symbolizes global divisions as struggles between light and shadow--between unexamined truths and unspeakable invisibilities. As repositories of collective memory, these public presentations have been scrutinized for their ideological messages. Still underconsidered is the bulk of the period's available data, the snapshot world, which colourfully constitutes a hidden 'history from below'. Enshrining the nuclear family in a time of potential nuclear annihilation, the domestic slide show is both product and producer of Cold War conditioning. 'A Cold War Tourist and His Camera'(McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011), co-authored by political scientist John Langford and myself, draws on a particularly apposite collection, a study in Cold War vernacular photography occasioned by the curriculum of Canada's National Defence College in 1962-63. Among these Cold-Warriors-in-training was our father Warren Langford (1919-1997), who visited theatres of Cold War defence and ideological struggle in North America, Africa, and Europe, creating slide shows for his family along the way. My paper introduces our study's correlation of Cold War orthodoxies and photographic experience, and considers the implications of translating our father's slide show from the private to the public realm.
Description: Conference paper presented March 25-26, 2011.
Rights: Copyright Martha Langford, 2011.
Appears in Collections:Photo Archives and the Photographic Memory of Art History, part III

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