History of Art and Architecture

Paula Kupfer


Paula V. Kupfer specializes in the history of photography and modern art in Latin America, with an emphasis on the ecological and political dimensions of lens-based practices. Her dissertation project addresses the intersections of photography, environmental history, and enslavement in imperial Brazil through the work of landscape photographer Marc Ferrez.

In addition to her commitment to ecocritical methodologies, Kupfer’s research draws attention to the ways dimensions of gender, class, and race manifest in works of art and condition artists’ identities. Her MA thesis (2016) studied the work of German emigré photographer Gertrudes Altschul and her participation in São Paulo’s Foto Cine Clube Bandeirantes in the 1950s. Since then, Kupfer has collaborated on various publications that highlight the contributions of women photographers across the Americas and Europe, including Sandra Eleta: The Invisible World (2018), What They Saw: Historical Photobooks by Women, 1843–1999 (2021) and A World History of Women Photographers (2022).

Before joining HAA, Kupfer worked as managing editor of Aperture magazine, as photo editor for California Sunday Magazine, and as freelance editor on various books and exhibition catalogues. Her writing has appeared in ASAP/J, Hyperallergic, Terremoto, The Photobook Review, Harper’s “Postcard” blog, BOMB online, TIME LightBox, and the Aperture blog, among others.

Areas of Specialization: Ecocriticism; History of photography in the Americas, with a focus on Brazil.

Education Details

PhD candidate, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh, 2021 

MA, Art History, Hunter College, New York, 2016
MA thesis: “Gertrudes Altschul and the Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante: Modern Photography and Femininity in 1950s São Paulo” 

BA, Journalism and Latin American Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, New York University, 2009 (cum laude)
BA Honors thesis: “Contesting City Spaces: Public Art in Bogotá”

Selected Publications

“Variations on Landscape, Environment, and History: Lola Álvarez Bravo’s Paisajes de México (1954).” Dialectic Journal X (forthcoming, December 2022): 9–24. Peer-reviewed journal article.

“1965–1969: Nostalgia, Pop, and Revolution.” In What They Saw: Historical Photobooks by Women, 1843–1999, 145–69. New York: 10x10 Photobooks, 2021. Commissioned chapter introduction essay and short essays.
Winner of the 2021 Aperture–Paris Photography Catalogue of the Year Award and the 2022 Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award.

“Gertrudes Altschul and the Elements of a (Brazilian) Landscape” in Gertrudes Altschul: Filigrana (São Paulo: Museu de Arte de São Paulo, 2021), 76-88. Catalogue essay.

“‘Mesotrópicos: Ficciones Transitorias y Tempestades Afectivas’ at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Panamá.” Terremoto (blog), April 24, 2021. https://terremoto.mx/en/online/mesotropicos-ficciones-transitorias-y-tempestades-afectivas-en-el-mac-panama. Exhibition review.

with Jacob Eisensmith. “Questionnaire: Introduction.” Contemporaneity 9, no. 1 (2021): 1–3. https://doi.org/10.5195/contemp/2021.316
Coedited questionnaire section for a peer-reviewed journal.

“Gertrudes Altschul; Maria Cristina Orive.” In Une histoire mondiale des femmes photographes, edited by Luce Lebart and Marie Robert, 173; 201. Paris: Editions Textuel, 2020.

“Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris & W. Eugene Smith in Pittsburgh.” In Dispatch: Carnegie International, 57th Edition 2018, edited by Liz Park and Ingrid Schaffner, 120–22. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Art, 2019. Catalogue essay.

“Gertrudes Altschul: An Adopted Brazilian Photographer in São Paulo.” MoMA Post: Notes on Modern and Contemporary Art around the Globe (blog), May 2, 2018. Essay.

“Video Art in Latin America.” ASAP/J (blog), September 6, 2018. http://asapjournal.com/video-art-in-latin-america-paula-kupfer/. Exhibition review.

“José María Velasco; Albert Berg.” In Traveler Artists: Landscapes of Latin America from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection, edited by Katherine Manthorne, 50–55; 168–71. New York: Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, 2015. Essays.

Selected Awards

Andrew W. Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship, University of Pittsburgh, 2022–23

Photography Network Project Grant, 2022

Finalist, Joan and Stanford Alexander Award, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 2022

Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Sciences Research Council, Brooklyn, New York, 2021–22

Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) Research Fellowship and Guest-Researcher at Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, Berlin, Fall 2021

Humanities Engage Immersive Fellowship, University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, 2021–21

Marstine Prize, awarded for collaborative curatorial project “Dig Where You Stand,” Carnegie International 57, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, 2019

Tinker Field Research Grant, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 2019

Selected Presentations

“In Disquieting Consonance: Enslaved Workers and Coffee Plantation Landscapes in Late-imperial Brazil,” Contesting Lands, Photography Network Annual Symposium: “Intersecting Photographies,” Washington, D.C., October 13-15, 2022

“By Nature of Being Unseen: Hidden Histories in Marc Ferrez’s Landscape Photographs of Imperial Brazil,” La naturaleza entre el arte, la ciencia y el paisaje II, Seminario Internacional “El 19 hoy. Nuevas perspectivas sobre el arte y la cultura visual del siglo XIX en Latinoamérica, online, October 11–13, 2022

Mata to floresta: Marc Ferrez’s Photographs and the Evolution of Rio de Janeiro’s Tijuca Forest,” Developing Room Graduate Student Colloquium on the History and Theory of Photography, April 29, 2022

“Ecocritical Constructions: Lola Álvarez Bravo’s Mexican Paisajes,Earthly Desires: Ecofeminism and Spatial Histories, Society for Architectural Historians Annual Conference, April 2021

“Photography, Landscape, and Empire: Marc Ferrez’s Hybrid Views of Rio de Janeiro,” Producing Landscape Across the Nineteenth Century, College Art Association Conference (online), February 2021

“Photographs on the Move: Gertrudes Altschul and São Paulo’s Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante,” The Art of Being in Exile: Alienation and Liberation, University of California–Riverside, May 2018

“The Memory of the Fifth Border: Panama’s Canal Zone as Living Monument,” Motivating Monuments, University of Pittsburgh, November 2018