Associate Professor, Photography
Art historian Greg Foster-Rice teaches students how to analyze photography within all its varied contexts.
“Photography has impacted every other medium around it. It shapes everything that we experience in our lives,” says Greg Foster-Rice, associate professor in the Photography Department. An art historian with a doctorate from Northwestern University, Foster-Rice doesn’t teach methods of photography, but rather the analysis of photographs within their historical context. Here’s the teacher, father, environmentalist and avid bicyclist…
You’re a photographer. I’m a photographer. Everybody’s a photographer who’s got a camera phone. Photography plays a much bigger role than other kinds of art, in terms of our everyday lives.
I’m interested in the way photography shapes our experience of places. When we see photographs of a place before we go there, we arrive expecting that the place is going to live up to the photograph. That’s actually kind of impossible, but I’m really interested in how we travel around with this deck of cards in our mind that says, “This is what the Grand Canyon is supposed to look like,” or, “This is what New York is supposed to look like.”
On one of his recent projects:
I co-curated a show at the Art Institute that opened in October . It’s The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, 1960-1980. My two co-curators and I were interested in the way that the idea of the city was changing in the 1960s and 1970s, and we had an idea that images were playing a really strong role in shaping people’s response to the city.
On the one hand, [photography] can be used to say, “This city’s decrepit and falling apart,” and some of the images in the show do that. Other images come from the opposite side and say, “This is a lively, terrific community.”
That’s why we called it The City Lost and Found. It is represented as lost, hopelessly lost, but also, people are finding something really terrific. We want to have a balance of both.
I can never hope to know exactly what the students are going to do with the information [I teach], but, essentially, I’m helping to outfit them with a toolkit, and then they’re going to go build something. My part of the toolkit isn’t how to take a great photograph, but hopefully they’re able to take the tools, the history and understanding of different styles, and think more expansively about what they do as photographers.