Allan Sekula

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Allan Sekula, Self-Portrait (Lendo, 12/22/02), 2002-03, cibachrome, 15 x 21".
Born January 15, 1951(1951-01-15)
Erie, Pennsylvania, United States
Died August 10, 2013(2013-08-10) (aged 62)
Los Angeles, United States
Web Wikipedia

Allan Sekula (1951-2013) was an American photographer, writer, filmmaker, theorist and critic. From 1985 until his death, he taught at California Institute of the Arts.

From the early 1970s, Sekula’s works with photographic sequences, written texts, slide shows and sound recordings have traveled a path close to cinema, sometimes referring to specific films. However, with the exception of a few video works from the early 70s and early 80s, he has stayed away from the moving image. This changed in 2001, with the first work that Sekula was willing to call a film, Tsukiji, a “city symphony” set in Tokyo’s giant fish market.

His books range from the theory and history of photography to studies of family life in the grip of the military industrial complex, and in Fish Story, to explorations of the world maritime economy. (Source)

He began staging performances and creating installations in the early 1970s. Heavily influenced by the ports of San Pedro, Sekula’s works often focused on the shipping industry and ocean travel.

Books, catalogues[edit]

Photography Against the Grain: Essays and Photo Works 1973-1983, Halifax, 1984.
Fish Story, 1995/2002.
Ecrits sur la photographie: 1974-1986, 2013
  • Photography Against the Grain: Essays and Photo Works, 1973-1983, Halifax: Press of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1984, 259 pp; repr., London: MACK, 2017, 260 pp. [1]
  • Fish Story, Düsseldorf: Richter, 1995, 204 pp; 2nd ed., rev., 2002, 206 pp, ARG.
    • Seemannsgarn, trans. Wolfgang Himmelberg, Düsseldorf: Richter, 2002, 208 pp. (German)
  • Allan Sekula: Dead Letter Office, Rotterdam: Nederlands Foto Instituut, 1997, 54 pp. (English)/(Dutch)
  • Geography Lesson: Canadian Notes, MIT Press, 1997.
  • Dismal Science: Photoworks 1972-1996, ed. Debra Risberg, Illinois State University, 1999, 272 pp. [2]
  • Titanic's Wake, Cherbourg-Octeville: Point du jour, 2003, 119 pp. (English)/(French)
  • Performance under Working Conditions, ed. Sabine Breitwieser, Ostfildern-Ruit: Generali Foundation/Hatje Cantz, 2003, 352 pp. [3] (English)/(German)
  • Polonia and Other Fables / Polonia i inne opowieści, ed. Karolina Lewandowska, Chicago: The Renaissance society at The University of Chicago, and Warsaw: Zache̜ta National Gallery of Art, 2009, 117 pp. (English)/(Polish)
  • with Wombell Paul, Sontag Susan, Berger John, Burgin Victor, Barthes Roland and others, Anni 70. Fotografia e vita quotidiana, Silvana, 2009. Catalogue (Italian)
  • Ecrits sur la photographie: 1974-1986, trans. and intro Marie Muracciole, Paris: Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, 2013. (French)
  • Ship of Fools / The Dockers' Museum, ed. and intro Hilde Van Gelder, Leuven University Press, 2015, 240 pp. [4]
  • Facing the Music: Documenting Walt Disney Hall and the Redevelopment of Downtown Los Angeles, ed. Edward Dimendberg, East of Borneo Books, 2015, 240 p.
  • with Giorgio Agamben, Ariella Azoulay, Roland Barthes, Georges Didi-Huberman, Harun Farocki and others, Walead Beshty: Picture Industry Paperback, JRP Ringier, 2017, 608 pp.
  • Okeanos, eds. Cory Scorzzari and Daniela Zyman, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017, 280 pp. Intersperses essays from scholars, historians, and thinkers with a selection of Allan Sekula’s seminal texts and excerpts from his private notebooks. Contributions by Nabil Ahmed, Keller Easterling, Celina Jeffery, Laleh Khalili, Rosa Lleó, Gabriele Mackert, Jegan Vincent de Paul, Filipa Ramos, Carles Guerra Rojas, Cory Scozzari, Allan Sekula, Sally Stein, Philip Stinberg, Daniela Zyman. Publisher.
  • Art Isn't Fair: Further Essays on the Traffic in Photographs and Related Media, eds. Sally Stein and Ina Steiner, London: Mack Books, 2020, 344 pp. Publisher.


  • Performance under Working Conditions, 1973, ​20 min, black and white video.
  • Talk Given by Mr. Fred Lux at the Lux Clock Company manufacturing plant in Lebanon, Tennessee, on Wednesday, September 15, 1954, 1974, ​25:30 min, single-channel video, b&w, sound.
  • Reagan Tape, with Noël Burch, 1981, 10 min.
  • Tsukiji, 2001, ​43:30 min, digital video, color, sound.
  • Gala, 2005, 24:37 min, digital video, color, sound.
  • The Lottery of the Sea, 2006, 179 min, digital video, color, sound.
  • A Short Film for Laos, 2006, 45 min, digital video, color, sound. [5]
  • The Forgotten Space, with Noël Burch, 2010, 112 min. Website.
  • Art Isn't Fair, 2012, 5:16 min, digital video, color, sound.

(based on the filmography available on the Allan Sekula Studio website, 2023)

Articles (selection)[edit]

  • "On the Invention of Photographic Meaning", Artforum 13:5, Jan 1975, pp 36-45; repr. in Photography in Print, ed. Vicki Goldberg, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1981, pp 452-473; repr. in Thinking Photography ed. Victor Burgin, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1982, pp 84-109; repr. in Sekula, Photography Against the Grain, 1984, pp 3-21.
  • "The Instrumental Image: Steichen at War", Artforum 14:4, Dec 1975, pp 26-35.
  • "Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary (Notes on the Politics of Representation)", The Massachusetts Review 19:4, Dec 1978, pp 859-883; repr. in Photography, Current Perspectives, ed. Jerome Liebling, Light Impressions, 1978, pp 231-255; repr. in Sekula, Photography Against the Grain, 1984, pp 53-75.
  • "La política de la fotografía", trans. Elena Llorens Pujol, in Efecto real: debates posmodernos sobre fotografía, ed. Jorge Ribalta, Barcelona: Gustavo Gili, 2004, pp 35-64. (Spanish)
  • "Debating Occupy", Art in America, June/July 2012, p 103.