Benjamin J. Young (‘20 - Present)

Lecturer in Art History Columbia University bjy2107@columbia.edu

Benjamin J. Young is a historian of art and photography. He received a PhD in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley, and was previously Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History at Purchase College, State University of New York. He is also managing editor of Grey Room, a quarterly academic journal of art, architecture, media, and politics published by MIT Press.

Young's dissertation on the artwork of American photographer Allan Sekula, which he is turning into a book, sets the use of photographic documents by conceptual and performance artists alongside political struggles over documentation made by police, underground newspapers, and corporations during the Vietnam War era. In this context, Young shows how Sekula’s critique of liberalism, humanism, and documentary photography leads to an emphasis on collective portraiture in Sekula’s later photographic and textual accounts of maritime space, economic globalization, and everyday life under capitalism. Young has also written on the work of Harun Farocki and on the reinvention of documentary by Fred Lonidier, Martha Rosler, Phel Steinmetz, and Sekula in San Diego in the 1970s, along with a broader circle of artists in San Diego, including David Antin, Eleanor Antin, John Baldessari, and Carrie Mae Weems. Young's essay on Sekula’s Waiting for Tear Gas appeared in Sensible Politics: The Visual Culture of Nongovernmental Activism (Zone, 2012), and he co-edited and contributed to the special issue “Allan Sekula and the Traffic in Photographs,” Grey Room 55 (2014).

His recent essay “ ‘Decolonize This Place’ : Realism and Humanism in Photography of Israel-Palestine,” in “Disassembled” Images: Allan Sekula and Contemporary Art (Leuven University Press, 2019), addresses the role of both contemporary art and documentary photography in decolonization struggles, human-rights activism, portraiture after humanism, and emerging discourses of forensic aesthetics. His essay for the exhibition catalogue of The Last Cruze, LaToya Ruby Frazier’s photographs of the closing of the General Motors factory in Lordstown, Ohio (Renaissance Society, forthcoming), concentrates on the motif of workers leaving the factory. More information is available at http://benjaminyoung.info.

Benjamin joins us as a Mellon Fellow in Art Humanities.