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Paul Messier appointed director of Yale's new Lens Media Lab

Dear friends and colleagues,

Today the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University announced my appointment as director of the Lens Media Lab, an exciting new initiative. As many of you know, much of my work has been dedicated to research focused on understanding and interpreting the material history of the photographic print. The LML will bring substantially more resources to this work and, through an endowment, will insure ongoing and sustained focus for years to come. The new lab fulfills another key goal by placing my reference collection of photographic papers into an academic institution where it can be studied and preserved.

Leadership of the LML presents an important new opportunity, but I continue to be avidly committed to growing and sustaining my private conservation practice. Changes are on the way, but the new venture at Yale has been years in the making, giving staff and me time to insure that clients and projects will not be impacted. Diane Tafilowski, Karina Beeman, and Jennifer McGlinchey Sexton are among the most talented paper and photograph conservators in the world, and with Mariah Azoti, our registrar and business manager, we are well positioned to expand the practice by continuing to perform outstanding treatments and through ongoing service to the field. Conservation treatment and communications will continue to be managed by senior staff and I will remain available for work at the studio and for consulting especially for the institutions and private clients with whom I have worked so closely for many years. In the spirit of the forward looking inquiry and leadership I hope to foster at the LML, I will continue to hone the research agenda, engaging with many of you along the way to better understand priorities and to catalyze new thinking. And when the LML opens its doors in September 2015, I welcome each of you to New Haven to see firsthand what we are up to and how it applies to, and hopefully enriches, your work and interest in the field of photography. With gratitude,

Paul Messier

Paul Messier - photo credit: Mariah Azoti
Paul Messier

So what is the Lens Media Lab? "Lens media" broadly encompasses photography, video, and film, both analog and digital. Some fine art "photography" departments have re-cast themselves as "lens media” departments offering traditional photography while embracing the intangible outputs of today -- digital imaging, both still and video. This trend will continue as the cultural associations and distinctions between imaging media continue to dissolve. The unifying thread among these visual media is the lens -- on Man Ray's camera, an IPhone, or within the human eye. In the first instance, the LML will be devoted to the physical photograph across the spectrum from object of artistic expression to utilitarian document. In many respects, this work has already begun through collaborations devoted to artists and collections, including Harry Callahan and the Center for Creative Photography, the Thomas Walther Collection at the Museum of Modern Art, and with Man Ray in private collections. The LML provides a needed platform for cultivating these sorts of projects and increasing their impact through close ties to collectors and collecting institutions. Itself an outcome of collaboration with senior Yale administration including the director of the IPCH, Stefan Simon, and through a generous gift from a committed collector, the LML will bring together conservators, scientists, art historians and a wide range of other academic disciplines to conduct both basic and applied research. In every instance, this work will have relevance for collections and collectors and it will be my goal to broaden the base of support for the LML within these two groups.

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