of the History of Photography and Modern Art
Professor McCauley is interested in the history of photography as a constantly changing series of processes that can be directed to multiple uses, only one of which is the “aesthetic.” Her early work dealt with the institutional formation of commercial photography during the first generation of negative-positive prints in the 1850s-60s, and she remains concerned with the ways that economic and political forces shape the social status and ideological messages of the photographic. While advocating close looking at original prints and a fundamental understanding of the limits placed on imagery by the techniques used (she has sponsored workshops on Talbot’s calotype process and collodion-on-glass positives for various seminars), she also probes the societal conditions that make possible the shooting, publishing and dissemination of photographs. She welcomes students working outside the Western canon of art photographs as well as those who want to reconsider major figures who have not received critical treatment.
Her most recent research concerns American modernist photography during World War I, particularly members of the Stieglitz circle, and the role of the war in forcing stylistic innovations and the collapse of pictorialism. In The Steerage and Alfred Stieglitz (co-authored with Jason Francisco, 2012), she reconsiders Stieglitz as a writer and mythmaker, the subsequent reception of what became a seminal modernist photograph, and the repression of immigration as its motivating subject. Another recent essay on Francis Bruguiere’s abstract illustrations for Lance Sieveking’s Beyond this Point (1929) recovers the spiritualist (and theosophical) roots of photographic abstraction and considers the impact that early concepts of medium specificity (inspired by the arrival of talking films) had on Bruguiere’s radical rethinking of book illustration.
Professor McCauley is the author of A.A.E. Disdéri and the Carte de Visite Portrait Photograph; Industrial Madness: Commercial Photography in Paris,1848-1871; The Museum and the Photograph (co-authored with Mark Haworth-Booth), as well as numerous studies on the historiography of photography, the cultural contexts of the medium's invention, and the careers of Thomas Eakins, the Aguado brothers, and the Bisson frères, among others. She co-curated an exhibition on Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice (including her travel photographs) and was a co-author of the catalogue, Gondola Days: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Palazzo Barbaro Circle (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2004). At Princeton, she has taught seminars on the Stieglitz circle; the invention of photography; American museum history and theory; photography and World War I; the photographic nude; photography during the collodion era; French and British caricature from 1776 to 1914; abstraction and photography; and Pre-Raphaelite painting and photography.
The Steerage and Alfred Stieglitz (co-authored with Jason Francisco) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).
“Secret Seraglios: Tracking the Female Nude in the History of Nineteenth-Century Photography.” In Histoire de l’art du XIXe siècle (1848-1914): Bilans et perspectives, eds. Claire Barbillon, C. Chevillot, F.R. Martin, 575-589 (Paris: Ecole du Louvre, 2012).
“Sneak Previews: Nude Photographs by Pierre Bonnard and George Henrik Breitner.” In Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard, ed. Elizabeth Easton, 46-57 (Yale University Press, 2011).
“Epouses des hommes et épouses de l’art: la ‘question de la femme’ dans les années 1860 et la photographie de Julia Margaret Cameron”/“Brides of Men and Brides of Art: The ‘Woman Question’ of the 1860s and the Photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron,” Etudes photographiques (November 2011): 7-50 (French); 51-75 (English).
“Fawning over Marbles: Robert and Gerardine Macpherson’s Vatican Sculptures and the Role of Photographs in the Reception of the Antique.” In Art and the Early Photographic Album, ed. Stephen Bann, 94-122 (Yale University Press, CASVA Studies in the History of Art, Vol. 77, 2011).
“Francis Bruguiere and Lance Sieveking’s Beyond This Point (1929): An Experiment in Abstract Photography, Synaesthesia, and the Cinematic Book.” In More Than One: Photographs in Sequence, ed. Joel Smith, 46-65 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).
“`Merely Mechanical’: On the Origins of Photographic Copyright in France and England,” Art History (February 2008): 57-78.
“Overexposure: Thoughts on the Triumph of Photography.” In The Meaning of Photography, eds. Robin Kelsey and Blake Stimson, 159-162 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008).
“The Trouble with Photography.” In Photography Theory, ed. James Elkins, 403-30 (London: Routledge, 2007).