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Photography has long served multiple purposes: from novelty and parlor amusement to informative, journalistic storytelling and persuasive product-selling. Photography’s material output accumulated exponentially for nearly two centuries; some of it carefully and publicly catalogued and organized, much of it stuffed in shoe boxes or digital files less well organized and accessible than old, mismatched socks crammed in drawers. Beginning as a 19th century mechanical invention involving chemistry and directed to the few, photography evolved to a democratic medium engaged by the many – maybe “the most.”

Photography is simultaneously understood as “making” and “taking”: from the four-year-old’s worldview images of knees and the vacationer’s tedious snapshots of very, very distant vistas, to the event-defining, stop-action of news shots and the wordless narrative of the propagandist or polemicist. Photography documents, it inspires, acts as a memory and prompts memories. Photography stops motion and captures the action, instructs and demonstrates, entertains, reveals and conceals what is otherwise (un)noticed or (un)seen, directs attention and evokes a broad range of emotions. And there has never been more of it than there is today.

The PhotoHistory/PhotoFuture three-day conference focuses on the presentation of original scholarship on the broad subject of photography’s history and future. As the 2018 conference program reveals, presentations include applications, education, connoisseurship, conservation and preservation, and accessibility. Conference presentations in panel format offer scholarly research, exploration, analysis, interpretation and assessment about dimensions of photography’s past and future as viewed through multiple disciplinary lenses. More than 300 people attended the 2018 conference representing a wide range of academic disciplines and by practitioners from an equally broad range of professions: educators, practitioners, administrators and managers from both the for-profit and the not-for-profit sectors. Examples of academic disciplines represented at the 2018 inaugural PhotoHistory/PhotoFuture conference are: history, archives, photography, communication, digital humanities, criminology and criminal justice, computer science, public policy, imaging, economics, museum studies, fine arts, and library science. Examples of professions in attendance at the 2018 conference are: archivists, preservationists and conservationists, information managers, data and metadata specialists, photographers, museum curators, library and museum administrators.

PhotoHistory/PhotoFuture is sponsored and organized by RIT Press, the not-for-profit scholarly book publishing enterprise at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Following the two-day presentation of scholarship, the conference concludes with a photography-focused Antiquarian Show and Sale on Sunday.