Rhopographic Photography and Atemporal Cinema:
Ralph Ellison’s Polaroids and Three Days Before the Shooting . . . by Michael Germana
As many Ellison scholars already know, Ralph Ellison was an accomplished photographer before he was a celebrated author, and the portraits and street photographs he took during the late 1940s and early 50s demonstrate his compositional and technical skills. Sara Blair has convincingly shown how Ellison’s 1952 novel
Invisible Man is informed by, if not rehearsed in, his early street photography. But until now, no one has examined Ellison’s later photographic endeavors alongside his post-Invisible Man fiction. In this presentation, I examine the relationship between Ellison’s post-1952 photography and his ultimately unfinished novel, Three Days Before the Shooting… Picking up where Sara Blair left off, I illustrate how the Polaroid photographs Ellison took between 1966 and 1994—years Ellison was composing Three Days—articulate deep connections between temporality, visual media, subjectivity, and materiality that inform his unfinished novel in complex ways. Of especial interest to me is the ekphrastic dialectic between the still image and the motion picture that Ellison explores in his long fiction and negotiates via Polaroid photography.
March 13, 2013
2:30 p.m., 130 Colson Hall