History Hub Presents "Picture This!"

Two Russian women dancing in a crowd in a public square in Moscow.
“Moscow Celebrates its 800th birthday in 1947.” Photo by Robert Capa

The “Picture This!” event held by Duke History Hub witnessed an exciting talk about several historical pictures among the faculty and students from the History Department on the afternoon of March 28th. The panelists chose the photos in their research and provided contextual remarks on a website designed by Avrati Bhatnagar. Below the photos, the researchers proposed several questions to engage the audience in the discussion. The attendees actively shared their understanding of each image based on their personal focus and research background.

For example, in the review of “Moscow Celebrates its 800th birthday in 1947”, Professor Barnes noticed someone on the edge of the photo was smiling, though the “bigger” characters in the central looked sorrowful under the haze of war. She also connected the experiences of women in the Soviet Union with the refugee life in China during the period of WWII. The talkers then concluded that different people with different stories took their ways to understand the picture. Regarding another image of “Gandhi Shaving with a Gillette,” the researchers showed their various concerns about Gandhi’s way of shaving, the photo texture, the domestic space, the body, and the shaver brand from various perspectives, such as gender history and commercial history. Professor Partner noticed the mottled wall in the background and the national identity of the photographer. In short, the concerns and questions the talkers raised exposed the rich information in the images and the significance of photos in historical research.