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Alan Trachtenberg: An Interview

Video Data Bank

1988 00:36:15 United StatesEnglishColorMono4:3Video


Allan Trachtenberg is one of the most esteemed figures in contemporary photographic history and cultural studies. He received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Emeritus Fellowship for his continuing work on Wright Morris. Other honors include fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation. Trachtenberg is the Neil Gray, Jr. Professor Emeritus of English and American studies at Yale University, where he taught for thirty-five years. 

In this interview with James Hugunin, Trachtenberg discusses his interest in photographic history and the "problem of the daguerreotype.” “The photograph as an object is steeped in a number of cultural experiences,” he notes. “It’s a focal point, a materialization.” 

A historic interview conducted in 1988, edited in 2013.


The Video Data Bank is the leading resource in the United States for videotapes by and about contemporary artists. The VDB collection features innovative video work made by artists from an aesthetic, political or personal point of view. The collection includes seminal works that, seen as a whole, describe the development of video as an art form originating in the late 1960's and continuing to the present. Works in the collection employ innovative uses of form and technology, mixed with original visual style to address contemporary art and cultural themes.

Founded in 1976 at the inception of the media arts movement in the United States, the Video Data Bank is one of the nation's largest providers of alternative and art-based video. Through a successful national and international distribution service, the VDB distributes video art, documentaries made by artists, and recorded interviews with visual artists, photographers and critics.