ASX.TV: The Photographic Universe – Richard Benson & Frank Cost – “The Printed Picture” (2011)

The Photographic Universe: A Conference

The Photography Program in the School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons the New School for Design, The Aperture Foundation, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and The Shpilman Institute for Photography jointly present The Photographic Universe: A Conference. This two-day symposium brings together a range of leading photographers, scientists, theoreticians, historians, and philosophers from Parsons as well as other institutions, to reflect and discuss photography at a pivotal moment in its history.

The field of photography is constantly changing. What constitutes a ‘photographer’ or a ‘photograph’ has always been redefined by technological innovations, never more so than during the last two decades of the emerging digital revolution and the Internet. Quite possibly, photography is now at a similar place to where it was during its invention – a time when its cultural significance quickly grew due to fast and innovative technological development. The Photographic Universe: A Conference reflects on this current moment, with the pervasive digitalization of the medium and its speedy permeation into contemporary life. What is the importance of photography as a medium and a discipline? Prominent thinkers and practitioners discuss their roles in the expanding photographic field, evaluate its increasingly blurry relationship between art and life, and speculate on how photographic images will continue to change the way we see our world.


The conference features one-on-one conversations between individuals from disparate professional and research backgrounds. Each speaker contributes a ten-minute presentation on the subject of photography, followed by a twenty minute dialogue between the presenters.

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Speaker bios:

Richard Benson is a photographic artist and printer. In 1997 he co-authored A Maritime Album, 100 Photographs and Their Stories, and in 1972 he co-authored Lay this Laurel, an album of photographs of the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw. He has photographed extensively in Puerto Rico and Newport, Rhode Island, since 1970. His photographic work, as well as extensive research in the hand printing of photographs in ink in both photogravure and photo offset lithography, has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Eakins Press Foundation. In 1986 he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. For the past ten years, much of Mr. Benson’s time has been devoted to the production of fine photographic books, including The Face of Lincoln, Viking Press; The Work of Atget, vols. I, II, III, the Museum of Modern Art; and The American Monument, photographs by Lee Friedlander. His work is represented in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art as well as in numerous private collections. Mr. Benson has taught at Yale since 1979 and was appointed dean of the School in 1996.

Frank Cost was named interim dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences in July 2009. He is a long-time member of the RIT community, graduating from RIT in 1987 with a master’s degree in computer science. In 2001 Cost was a founding co-director, along with Patricia Sorce, Professor of the Printing Industry Center at RIT, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Industry Studies Center. Cost is the author of the Pocket Guide to Digital Printing, published by Delmar Thomson Learning, and The New Medium of Print: Material Communication in the Internet Age, published by the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press.

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Cost’s current research focuses on the impact of digital technology and digital culture on traditional forms of creative expression. His work exploring innovative uses for digitally produced books has helped RIT to attract funding for a number of research and development projects involving undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences and the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.

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