An interview with Allan Sekula conducted 2011 August 20-2012 February 14, by Mary Panzer, for the Archives of American Art at Sekula's studio and home in Los Angeles, California and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York.
Sekula speaks of his career and some of the mediums he works in; language and contemporary art; Roland Barthes; his relation to contemporary art; west coast conceptualism; genre switches; realism; documentary photography; Belgium and the industrial revolution; Meunier; minor figures; art history and marginalism; Roberto Matta; World War I; Homer Folks; Fish Story; historic cinema; economic factors of art shows and publication; galleries and the art world; growing up and his family; his father and moving; Ohio; his brothers and sisters; San Pedro; demographics of students at school; sports at school; Vietnam; protests; cross country and swimming; California; fishing; college; U.C. system; declaring a major; John Altoon; Ed Kienholz; exposure to art; visiting museums; Marcuse's classes; Baldessari's classes; course work and student life; student demonstrations; working in a library and exposure to books; father losing his job; science and working as a chemical technician; politics; his uncle committing suicide; moving away from his father; the draft; John Birch; Students for a Democratic Society; his mother; politics of his parents; Aerospace Folk Tales, autodidacts and scholarship; San Diego and Mexico; obtaining a camera and starting to use it; art school; CalArts; UCSD; Meditations on a Triptych; David Salle; Fred Lonidier; Phel Steinmetz; MFA and art training; poets; story of Allen Ginsberg and one of Sekula's sculptures; production and the audience; A Photograph is Worth a Thousand Questions, photography and the burden of tradition; pictorialism; moving to New York; Artforum; October; New York music scene; Captain Beefheart; Bo Diddley; Little Richard; Steichen and aerial photography; origins of October; New Criterion; Art Critic's Grant; teaching at Ohio State; television; technological historians; New York subway and getting a ticket for using French money; RISD lectures; Long Beach; photography; collages; Metro Pictures; New Topographics; School as a Factory; moral choice and the viewer; work method and the audience; Social Criticism and Art Practice; east and west coasts; Ed Ruscha; documentary; film, Los Angeles; cinema and social history; Ohio State Department of Photography and Cinema; Los Angeles Plays Itself; Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador; Ohio State campus, anti-Semitism; Ronald Reagan and protest; influences and colleagues; intellectual genealogy; Michael Graves and Ohio State architecture; Bad Ohio; tenure; University Exposed; AIDS issue of October; The Body and the Archive; making film; Korean War; collectors and images. Sekula also recalls Eleanor Antin, Jeff Wall, Terry Fox, Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, Paul Saltman, Marcuse, Baldessari, Sacvan Bercovitch, Stanley Miller, Jef Raskin, Paul Brach, David Antin, Howard Fried, Peter Van Riper, Alison Knowles, Dick Higgins, Manny Farber, Ihab Hassan, Diane Wakoski, Jackson Mac Low, Martha Rosler, Lenny Neufeld, Joshua Neufeld, David Wing, Brian Connell, Max Kozloff, Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden, Carole Conde, Karl Beveridge, Barry Rosens, Tom Crow, John Copeland, Harry Lunn, Hilton Kramer, Grace Mayer, Carol Duncan, Eva Cockroft, Richard Pommer, Rosalind Krauss, Sally Stein, Paddy Chayefsky, John Hanhardt, Mel Ramsden, Sarah Charlesworth, Jospeh Kosuth, Baruch Kirschenbaum, Robert Heinecken, Brian O'Doherty, Howard Becker, Jay Ruby, Jerry Liebling, Anna Wilkie, Ronald Feldman, John Gibson, David Ross, Britt Salvesen, Larry Sultan, Mike Mandel, Roy Ascott, Ilene Segalove, Paul Schimmel, DeeDee Halleck, Noel Burch, Joan Braderman, Woody Hayes, Thom Andersen, John Quigley, Ron Green, Kasper Koenig, Dan Graham, Jonathan Green, Christa Wolf, Catherine Lord, Ben Lifson, and Annette Michelson.
Biographical / Historical:
Allan Sekula (1951-2013) was a photographer, filmmaker, and writer, based at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. Mary Panzer (1955- ) is a historian from New York, New York.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Forty-one black and white photoprints, most of which are portraits of jazz, blues, Cajun, and zydeco musicians, plus a few additional subjects.
Scope and Contents:
These prints are all on fiber-based paper, unmounted. The subjects include jazz, blues, and zydeco musicians, politicians, and baseball players in action. All prints copyright 1994 by Alan Strauber, except as otherwise noted, and signed and dated on verso. All are 8" x 10" except for the 11" x 14" prints in box 2.
The majority of the photographs depict musicians in concert, but additional subjects include professional baseball players, politicians like Jerry Brown, and built structures in the American South and at Ellis Island.
Subjects include Marie Laveau's tomb, Aaron Neville, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Michel Doucette, George Porter, Aretha Franklin, Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, Johnny Copland, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, "Snooks" Eaglin, Robert Ward, Bo Diddley, Don Byron, Cajun dancers, David Duke, Jerry Brown, Boozoo Chavis, Terrence Simien, Chubby Carrier, C. J. Chevier, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Kenny Burrell, Robben Ford, Kenny Neal, Junior Wells, John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon, a Mardi Gras "Indian," Walter "Wolfman" Washington, and Robert "Junior" Lockwood; Ellis Island; and "Little Wimp's Barbecue House."
Biographical / Historical:
Alan Strauber is a photojournalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gannett Suburban Newspapers, Downbeat Magazine, and AKC Gazette, among others. His work is in the collections of Yad Vashem (Jerusalem, Israel), the Delta Blues Museum (Clarksdale, Mississippi), and the National Baseball Hall of Fame (Cooperstown, N.Y.). Among his special photographic interests are the photography of jazz musicians, professional baseball, and politicians; examples are contained in this collection. His e-mail address is
He is also a poet and art critic. An article by Mr. Strauber, "Art entices eyes, ears at Whitney Museum" from the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal, April 11, 2002, is posted on the World Wide Web at http://cityguide.pojonews.com/fe/DayTrips/stories/dt_whitney_museum.asp.
Mr. Strauber is mentioned in on a genealogical site listing his family background, posted in the "Phair Family Circle" at http://www.geocities.com/hmshultz/phair.html.
Collection donated by Alan Strauber, 1994, December 21.
Collection is open for research.
Alan Staruber retains copyright. At the time of donation, the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History obtained standard museum rights from the photographer to exhibit these photographs, lend them to other qualified museums, and publish them in its own publication program. These rights do not entitle the Archives Center to provide reproduction permission to third parties, which must contact the photographer for further information.