Lecture on the History of the Burns Collection Exhibitions and Publications at Flair Symposium, Harry Ransom Center

Dr. Burns Outside the Harry Ransom Center
Between September 30 and October 2, 2010 The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin held its Ninth Biennial Flair Symposium, the first devoted to photography. In association with the event the H.R.C. presented its most revered photographic treasures. A landmark exhibition showcasing the Gernsheim Collection and in conjunction presented Roy Flukinger’s spectacular text on the Gernsheims. The seminar consisted of lectures and panels about photographic collecting, exhibition, publication, and comments by noted photographers on producing and teaching photography. Helmut Gernsheim was the seminal collector who was able to acquire the earliest photographs taken by the discoverers of photography and also of the significant innovators who followed them up to the modern era. The Gernsheim Collection bought by the Harry Ransom Center includes the worlds first photograph taken by Niepce in 1827 as well as Daguerre’s first daguerreotypes. Roy Flukinger’s landmark catalog documents not only the Gernsheims’ accomplishments but also presents a detailed history of nineteenth and twentieth century photography.
Thomas F. Staley, Director of the Harry Ransom Center 
Discovering the Language of Photography:
The Gernsheim Collection Exhibition
In the 1950s-70s the Gernsheims along with MOMA’s Beaumont Newhall wrote texts on the history of photography which became road maps for scholars, curators and collectors. But their texts mainly emphasized the British, French and American pioneers with some German innovators. The following scholars continued the trend set by these original pioneers in the study of art photography and innovators. Collecting and discovering the amateur and journeyman photographers remained a fertile field for collecting for Burns and others interested in history, culture and changing nature of life and living through the lens.
Photography's Historiography Panel (Moderated by David Coleman)
J. B. Colson, Alison Nordström, Marta Weiss and Bodo von Dewitz
Dr. Burns was invited to speak at the seminar honoring Helmut Gernsheim as his collection and work is parallel to Gernsheim’s. The Burns’ accomplishments reflects the second critical aspect of photographic history, one that is now just becoming generally appreciated. Like Gernsheim’s, Burns’ collection in its field is without peer. Burns collects and emphasizes photography’s utilitarian use by people, professions and cultures. In dozen’s of subjects and through 43 books Burns has laid down the basics of the use of photography, now popularized by many as ‘vernacular’ photography. Gernsheim spearheaded collecting and writing about innovators and the art of photography. Modern photo historians and collectors following Gernsheim’s precedents are generally interested in this thread of photographic history which represents the innovators of each generation who used cameras and photographic processes in new or creative ways. 
Dr. Burns Speaks about the History of
The Burns Collection and Exhibitions & Publications
The history of photography as Burns points out is two fold, especially in the United States where photography was ubiquitous and was able to be practiced by everyone. Dr. Burns has avoided collecting popular genres such as entertainment and sports photography. In almost all other fields and in dozens of specific subjects Burns’ collection is the pioneer effort and accumulation. In several fields Burns’ texts are similarly the road maps for future collectors, scholars and curators. Some of the generally recognized topics of the Burns Collection are memorial photography, painted tintypes, photographic frames, manipulated photography, medical, forensic, African American, war and Judaic photography.
Displaying a Slide of 'Dissected Head, 1905'
Other images/topics discussed in the lecture:
Exhibit at University of Albany Art Museum
Searching the Criminal Body: Art, Science, Prejudice
More images from the Fleur Cowles Flair Symposium: