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Guide to the Ben Alper Photographs, 2013-2014

Summary

Ben Alper is an artist based in North Carolina. His series, An Index of Walking, won the 2015 Archive of Documentary Arts Award for Documentarians Working in North Carolina. An Index of Walking is a yearlong photographic project that explores the enigmatic intersection of memory, place, geography, and perception. Taken along the same daily walk in his neighborhood, the photographs depict the commonplace objects and spaces that comprise what could be any typical suburban area. Alper writes that "My walks have been a vehicle for exploration, contemplation, and looking; they have provided a structure in which to engage with the place in which I currently live." Collection acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts (Duke University).

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.11076
Title
Ben Alper photographs
Date
2013-2014
Extent
4.0 Linear Feet, 4 flat boxes (309 color photographs)
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Materials in English

Collection Overview

The Ben Alper Photographs contain his series, An Index of Walking, which won the 2015 Archive of Documentary Arts Award for Documentations Working in North Carolina. This series consists of 309 9x6” color photographs printed on 8 ½ x 11” sheets of Hahnemühle Final Art Pearl paper. Alper included the following abstract about this project:

"An Index of Walking is a yearlong photographic project that explores the enigmatic intersection of memory, place, geography, and perception. Taken along the same daily walk in my neighborhood, the photographs depict the commonplace objects and spaces that comprise what could be any typical suburban area. My walks have been a vehicle for exploration, contemplation, and looking; they have provided a structure in which to engage with the place in which I currently live. Georges Perec coined the term infra-ordinary to characterize the mundane features of everyday life – glass, concrete, utensils, our daily rhythms, the way we spend our time. He advocated for an anthropology of the banal, a method of sorts in which the habitual is scrutinized with intensity. Perec wrote, “We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep. But where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space?”

Time spent with the everyday spaces, objects, and rhythms of daily life reveals a wealth of information, most of which hides in plain sight. What is gleaned is often fragmentary and discrete; however, even the most ostensibly ordinary landscape is imprinted with so much – time, history, growth, decay, politics, and wonder. Caught somewhere between art and life, private and social experience, and repetition and chance, this project exists in the lineage of Happenings. Everyday I take the same walk and restrict myself to photographing one object or space which captivates me. These constraints delineate my route and process, but within these strictures lie opportunities for spontaneity, drifting, and subversion. As Rebecca Solnit avows in her book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, “exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.” It is this hybridized and indeterminate space, at once physical and mental, that interests me. This fascination derives from my own tenuous relationship to memory and place. Many of the homes, neighborhoods, and towns that I’ve lived in are unsettlingly absent from my consciousness. More often than not what remains is an abstracted still image, devoid of meaningful context. Sometimes, I realize that memories of disparate places have fused into one another, blurring the distinction between separate locations. A composite memory of place is born – temporally and spatially incongruous, but nevertheless united.

These compound memories, when not unified by place, find continuity in shared emotional states or physical attributes. Analogous experiences, whether joyful, upsetting, comforting, or tedious, bond to one another somewhat inexplicably. Psychological correspondences always seem to prevail over geographical ones. With An Index of Walking, I hope to speak about place as a series of discrete and fragmentary components, akin to a puzzle that is missing pieces. This is also how I archive and recall places in my mind – not as unified wholes, but as fractional and lacking continuity. It has become clear to me that this project is more than merely a durational exercise indexing a series of walks in my neighborhood; it is also a visual metaphor for my own idiosyncratic relationship to memory and place. In her wonderful essay “On Keeping A Notebook,” Joan Didion writes, “the point of my keeping a notebook has never been, nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record of what I have been doing or thinking. That would be a different impulse entirely, an instinct for reality which I sometimes envy but do not possess.” This sentiment resonates deeply with me as I think about my current relationship with photography. When I began An Index of Walking, I envisioned the project as one rooted in recording, mapping, and descriptive representation. In reality, what I’ve created is an illusory portrait of a place over time, as much fiction as it is fact. It extends beyond the evidentiary impulse simply to catalog my surroundings. Ultimately, the work represents my desire to fabricate a space that is singularly my own and to liberate the photograph from the confines of factual depiction. If memory perpetually betrays those who call upon it, then initiating this project from a place of invention and abstraction may be a way of subverting the anxiety of forgetting."

The Ben Alper Photographs were acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts (Duke University).

More Biographical / Historical Info

Arrangement

Collection's prints are arranged chronologically.

Using These Materials

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warning Access to the Collection

Collection is open for research.

warning Use & Permissions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

[Identification of item], Ben Alper Photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

6:26 pm, September 5, 2013
Box 1
4:10 pm, September 6, 2013
Box 1
5:31 pm, September 7, 2013
Box 1
12:54 pm, September 8, 2013
Box 1
6:24 pm, September 9, 2013
Box 1
7:28 pm, September 10, 2013
Box 1
11:19 pm, September 11, 2013
Box 1
3:17 pm, September 12, 2013
Box 1
8:01 pm, September 13, 2013
Box 1
6:02 pm, September 14, 2013
Box 1
4:49 pm, September 15, 2013
Box 1
7:06 pm, September 16, 2013
Box 1
7:11 pm, September 17, 2013
Box 1
5:16 pm, September 18, 2013
Box 1
1:05 pm, September 19, 2013
Box 1
8:18 pm, September 23, 2013
Box 1
10:31 pm, September 24, 2013
Box 1
11:56 pm, September 25, 2013
Box 1
10:23 pm, September 26, 2013
Box 1
2:03 pm, September 27, 2013
Box 1
5:58 pm, September 28, 2013
Box 1
6:42 pm, September 29, 2013
Box 1
6:03 pm, September 30, 2013
Box 1
6:37 pm, October 1, 2013
Box 1
12:19 pm, October 2, 2013
Box 1
3:42 pm, October 3, 2013
Box 1
7:02 pm, October 4, 2013
Box 1
2:53 pm, October 5, 2013
Box 1
6:32 pm, October 6, 2013
Box 1
6:49 pm, October 7, 2013
Box 1
9:19 pm, October 8, 2013
Box 1
11:18 pm, October 9, 2013
Box 1
9:16 pm, October 10, 2013
Box 1
2:07 pm, October 11, 2013
Box 1
7:06 pm, October 12, 2013
Box 1
4:51 pm, October 13, 2013
Box 1
10:33 pm, October 14, 2013
Box 1
11:46 pm, October 15, 2013
Box 1
11:39 pm, October 16, 2013
Box 1
5:54 pm, October 17, 2013
Box 1
6:27 pm, October 18, 2013
Box 1
5:11 pm, October 19, 2013
Box 1
4:21 pm, October 20, 2013
Box 1
12:47 pm, October 21, 2013
Box 1
9:21 pm, October 22, 2013
Box 1
7:43 pm, October 24, 2013
Box 1
1:37 pm, October 25, 2013
Box 1
6:00 pm, October 26, 2013
Box 1
7:46 pm, October 27, 2013
Box 1
5:13 pm, October 28, 2013
Box 1
6:42 pm, October 29, 2013
Box 1
2:55 pm, October 30, 2013
Box 1
1:46 pm, October 31, 2013
Box 1
10:11 pm, November 1, 2013
Box 1
4:11 pm, November 2, 2013
Box 1
2:30 pm, November 3, 2013
Box 1
5:47 pm, November 4, 2013
Box 1
11:17 pm, November 5, 2013
Box 1
12:07 pm, November 6, 2013
Box 1
10:43 pm, November 7, 2013
Box 1
10:29 pm, November 9, 2013
Box 1
4:32 pm, November 10, 2013
Box 1
6:03 pm, November 11, 2013
Box 1
1:53 pm, November 12, 2013
Box 1
10:14 pm, November 13, 2013
Box 1
7:30 pm, November 14, 2013
Box 1
1:51 pm, November 15, 2013
Box 1
2:48 pm, November 16, 2013
Box 1
11:36 pm, November 17, 2013
Box 1
1:24 pm, November 18, 2013
Box 1
10:17 pm, November 19, 2013
Box 1
11:08 pm, November 20, 2013
Box 1
6:08 pm, November 22, 2013
Box 1
4:37 pm, November 23, 2013
Box 1
4:30 pm, November 24, 2013
Box 1
1:23 pm, November 25, 2013
Box 1
11:23 pm, November 26, 2013
Box 1
4:25 pm, November 27, 2013
Box 1
6:52 pm, November 29, 2013
Box 1
4:41 pm, November 30, 2013
Box 1
11:15 pm, December 1, 2013
Box 2
11:05 pm, December 2, 2013
Box 2
10:56 pm, December 3, 2013
Box 2
12:34 pm, December 4, 2013
Box 2
12:27 pm, December 5, 2013
Box 2
12:19 pm, December 6, 2013
Box 2
5:05 pm, December 7, 2013
Box 2
8:42 pm, December 8, 2013
Box 2
8:42 pm, December 9, 2013
Box 2
11:35 pm, December 10, 2013
Box 2
5:33 pm, December 11, 2013
Box 2
7:16 pm, December 12, 2013
Box 2
5:38 pm, December 13, 2013
Box 2
7:05 pm, December 14, 2013
Box 2
8:00 pm, December 16, 2013
Box 2
10:50 am, December 17, 2013
Box 2
4:55 pm, December 18, 2013
Box 2
1:38 pm, December 19, 2013
Box 2
11:47 pm, December 20, 2013
Box 2
5:21 pm, December 21, 2013
Box 2
11:39 am, December 22, 2013
Box 2
4:20 pm, December 24, 2013
Box 2
5:48 pm, December 25, 2013
Box 2
5:42 pm, December 26, 2013
Box 2
10:00 pm, December 27, 2013
Box 2
4:39 pm, December 28, 2013
Box 2
4:33 pm, December 29, 2013
Box 2
2:33 pm, December 30, 2013
Box 2
12:46 pm, December 31, 2013
Box 2
4:42 pm, January 5, 2014
Box 2
6:34 pm, January 6, 2014
Box 2
5:15 pm, January 7, 2014
Box 2
8:24 pm, January 8, 2014
Box 2
3:25 pm, January 9, 2014
Box 2
2:28 pm, January 11, 2014
Box 2
3:36 pm, January 12, 2014
Box 2
9:48 pm, January 13, 2014
Box 2
8:19 pm, January 14, 2014
Box 2
3:43 pm, January 15, 2014
Box 2
7:40 pm, January 16, 2014
Box 2
3:00 pm, January 17, 2014
Box 2
10:09 pm, January 18, 2014
Box 2
3:18 pm, January 19, 2014
Box 2
12:12 pm, January 20, 2014
Box 2
9:34 pm, January 21, 2014
Box 2
1:58 pm, January 22, 2014
Box 2
3:37 pm, January 23, 2014
Box 2
9:57 pm, January 24, 2014
Box 2
10:40 pm, January 25, 2014
Box 2
1:43 pm, January 26, 2014
Box 2
12:37 pm, January 27, 2014
Box 2
4:12 pm, January 28, 2014
Box 2
1:59 pm, January 29, 2014
Box 2
2:47 pm, January 30, 2014
Box 2
2:11 pm, January 31, 2014
Box 2
6:11 pm, February 1, 2014
Box 2
4:02 pm, February 2, 2014
Box 2
10:55 am, February 3, 2014
Box 2
7:35 pm, February 4, 2014
Box 2
3:18 pm, February 5, 2014
Box 2
1:50 pm, February 6, 2014
Box 2
5:19 pm, February 7, 2014
Box 2
10:49 pm, February 8, 2014
Box 2
10:47 pm, February 9, 2014
Box 2
11:25 pm, February 11, 2014
Box 2
11:25 am, February 12, 2014
Box 2
6:19 pm, February 13, 2014
Box 2
11:38 am, February 14, 2014
Box 2
9:57 pm, February 15, 2014
Box 2
5:17 pm, February 16, 2014
Box 2
10:04 pm, February 17, 2014
Box 2
2:14 pm, February 18, 2014
Box 2
1:51 pm, February 20, 2014
Box 2
9:38 pm, February 22, 2014
Box 2
4:14 pm, February 23, 2014
Box 2
4:12 pm, February 24, 2014
Box 2
1:43 pm, February 25, 2014
Box 2
9:55 am, February 26, 2014
Box 2
8:28 pm, February 27, 2014
Box 2
7:00 pm, February 28, 2014
Box 2
6:51 pm, March 1, 2014
Box 3
6:06 pm, March 2, 2014
Box 3
2:17 pm, March 4, 2014
Box 3
1:29 pm, March 5, 2014
Box 3
6:04 pm, March 6, 2014
Box 3
8:48 pm, March 7, 2014
Box 3
4:17 pm, March 8, 2014
Box 3
4:10 pm, March 13, 2014
Box 3
4:03 pm, March 14, 2014
Box 3
4:12 pm, March 15, 2014
Box 3
3:32 pm, March 16, 2014
Box 3
2:55 pm, March 17, 2014
Box 3
3:04 pm, March 18, 2014
Box 3
10:16 pm, March 19, 2014
Box 3
10:37 pm, March 20, 2014
Box 3
9:30 pm, March 21, 2014
Box 3
4:06 pm, March 22, 2014
Box 3
6:11 pm, March 23, 2014
Box 3
1:53 pm, March 24, 2014
Box 3
2:53 pm, March 25, 2014
Box 3
10:30 pm, March 26, 2014
Box 3
6:20 pm, March 31, 2014
Box 3
6:18 pm, April 1, 2014
Box 3
6:32 pm, April 2, 2014
Box 3
7:35 pm, April 3, 2014
Box 3
12:23 pm, April 4, 2014
Box 3
12:26 pm, April 5, 2014
Box 3
7:31 pm, April 6, 2014
Box 3
6:39 pm, April 8, 2014
Box 3
6:50 pm, April 9, 2014
Box 3
9:58 pm, April 10, 2014
Box 3
2:01 pm, April 11, 2014
Box 3
6:49 pm, April 12, 2014
Box 3
7:15 pm, April 13, 2014
Box 3
1:57 pm, April 14, 2014
Box 3
10:00 pm, April 16, 2014
Box 3
2:04 pm, April 17, 2014
Box 3
6:10 pm, April 18, 2014
Box 3
5:26 pm, April 19, 2014
Box 3
2:11 pm, April 20, 2014
Box 3
2:03 pm, April 22, 2014
Box 3
2:18 pm, April 23, 2014
Box 3
7:22 am, April 24, 2014
Box 3
9:23 am, April 25, 2014
Box 3
7:14 pm, April 26, 2014
Box 3
10:47 pm, April 27, 2014
Box 3
4:45 pm, April 28, 2014
Box 3
4:26 pm, April 29, 2014
Box 3
5:47 pm, April 30, 2014
Box 3
10:14 pm, May 1, 2014
Box 3
11:01 pm, May 2, 2014
Box 3
10:11 pm, May 3, 2014
Box 3
7:26 pm, May 4, 2014
Box 3
7:30 pm, May 5, 2014
Box 3
10:10 pm, May 7, 2014
Box 3
5:35 pm, May 8, 2014
Box 3
4:22 pm, May 9, 2014
Box 3
5:29 pm, May 10, 2014
Box 3
2:37 pm, May 11, 2014
Box 3
7:04 pm, May 17, 2014
Box 3
5:38 pm, May 18, 2014
Box 3
5:11 pm, May 19, 2014
Box 3
8:49 pm, May 20, 2014
Box 3
9:51 pm, May 21, 2014
Box 3
7:59 pm, May 22, 2014
Box 3
8:23 pm, May 23, 2014
Box 3
9:11 pm, May 24, 2014
Box 3
10:16 pm, May 25, 2014
Box 3
9:07 pm, May 26, 2014
Box 3
6:06 pm, June 14, 2014
Box 4
7:12 pm, June 15, 2014
Box 4
5:52 pm, June 16, 2014
Box 4
2:22 pm, June 17, 2014
Box 4
2:09 pm, June 18, 2014
Box 4
4:15 pm, June 19, 2014
Box 4
2:11 pm, June 20, 2014
Box 4
4:23 pm, June 21, 2014
Box 4
8:32 pm, June 22, 2014
Box 4
9:31 pm, June 23, 2014
Box 4
8:39 pm, June 24, 2014
Box 4
8:36 pm, June 25, 2014
Box 4
7:43 pm, June 26, 2014
Box 4
8:33 pm, June 27, 2014
Box 4
9:44 pm, June 28, 2014
Box 4
8:26 pm, June 29, 2014
Box 4
9:02 pm, June 30, 2014
Box 4
10:12 pm, July 1, 2014
Box 4
8:42 pm, July 2, 2014
Box 4
8:09 pm, July 3, 2014
Box 4
9:07 am, July 4, 2014
Box 4
6:15 pm, July 6, 2014
Box 4
11:37 pm, July 7, 2014
Box 4
8:04 pm, July 8, 2014
Box 4
7:46 pm, July 9, 2014
Box 4
8:01 pm, July 10, 2014
Box 4
8:54 pm, July 11, 2014
Box 4
10:56 am, July 12, 2014
Box 4
8:21 pm, July 13, 2014
Box 4
7:53 pm, July 14, 2014
Box 4
8:31 am, July 15, 2014
Box 4
6:38 pm, July 16, 2014
Box 4
9:42 pm, July 17, 2014
Box 4
11:24 pm, July 18, 2014
Box 4
9:54 am, July 19, 2014
Box 4
8:10 pm, July 20, 2014
Box 4
7:58 pm, July 21, 2014
Box 4
10:55 pm, July 22, 2014
Box 4
8:57 pm, July 23, 2014
Box 4
7:23 pm, July 24, 2014
Box 4
8:19 pm, July 25, 2014
Box 4
8:50 pm, July 26, 2014
Box 4
10:00 pm, July 27, 2014
Box 4
5:57 pm, July 28, 2014
Box 4
7:12 pm, July 29, 2014
Box 4
9:31 pm, July 30, 2014
Box 4
9:39 pm, July 31, 2014
Box 4
8:19 pm, August 1, 2014
Box 4
11:48 pm, August 2, 2014
Box 4
9:18 pm, August 3, 2014
Box 4
9:27 pm, August 4, 2014
Box 4
10:24 pm, August 5, 2014
Box 4
9:17 pm, August 6, 2014
Box 4
9:27 pm, August 7, 2014
Box 4
9:09 am, August 8, 2014
Box 4
10:29 am, August 10, 2014
Box 4
10:42 am, August 11, 2014
Box 4
2:40 pm, August 12, 2014
Box 4
9:39 pm, August 13, 2014
Box 4
8:39 pm, August 14, 2014
Box 4
2:31 pm, August 15, 2014
Box 4
2:39 pm, August 16, 2014
Box 4
3:42 pm, August 17, 2014
Box 4
2:20 pm, August 18, 2014
Box 4
8:49 pm, August 19, 2014
Box 4
8:38 pm, August 20, 2014
Box 4
8:01 pm, August 21, 2014
Box 4
7:38 pm, August 22, 2014
Box 4
10:47 pm, August 23, 2014
Box 4
7:54 pm, August 24, 2014
Box 4
3:49 pm, August 25, 2014
Box 4
7:58 pm, August 26, 2014
Box 4
9:54 pm, August 27, 2014
Box 4
8:45 pm, August 28, 2014
Box 4
9:26 am, August 29, 2014
Box 4
9:26 am, August 30, 2014
Box 4
7:53 pm, September 1, 2014
Box 4
5:13 pm, September 2, 2014
Box 4
5:17 pm, September 3, 2014
Box 4
8:55 pm, September 4, 2014
Box 4
 

Historical Note

Ben Alper is an artist based in North Carolina. He received a BFA in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art & Design in Boston and an MFA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Alper’s work has been shown widely, including exhibitions at the NADA Art Fair in Miami, the Luminary Center for the Arts in St. Louis, Le Dictateur Gallery in Milan, Italy, Higher Pictures and Meulensteen galleries in New York and at Johalla Projects and Schneider Gallery in Chicago. Additionally, his work has been published in The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography Vol. 2, Conveyor Magazine, Dear, Dave Magazine, Album Magazin, Yet Magazine and the catalog for Young Curators, New Ideas IV. In 2014, Alper was awarded a Peter S. Reed Foundation Grant, which supported the production of his first artist book, Adrift. He is also the co-founder of A New Nothing, an online platform for long-term visual conversations between artists.


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Provenance

The Ben Alper Photographs were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 2015.

Processing Information

Processed by Beth Weiss and Sandra Niethardt, November 2015.

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2015-0115