Virtual revisions and the vernacular image: the photographs of Elizabeth Howe Bliss
thesisposted on 08.06.2021, 14:25 by Kate M. Fogle
In the waning years of the Progressive Era, an American social worker named Elizabeth Howe Bliss (1886-1974) traveled to Oklahoma and Kentucky on behalf of the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) to report on child labourers and their education needs. During her investigations, Bliss photographed her subjects and surroundings, and these images, among others made in New York City and war-torn France, were recently acquired by the Smithsonian Institution despite their vernacular status. This thesis establishes a biographical trajectory for the previously unresearched life of Bliss and considers the bulk of, and impetus behind, her photographs, with an additional focus on those printed in The Child Labor Bulletin in 1917 and 1919, respectively. Further, this thesis argues for the virtual exhibition of vernacular images as a means for increasing their visibility amongst a diverse online audience, while simultaneously challenging norms that have persisted in downplaying their photo-historical value.