Lisa Sutcliffe, Curator

Illustration by  Jeffrey Phillips

Illustration by Jeffrey Phillips

Lisa Sutcliffe is the Hertzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts at the Milwaukee Art Museum. From 2007-2012, she served as Assistant Curator of Photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


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Wisconsin Death Trip,
by Michael Lesy

"This book pioneered the use of an existing archive of vernacular pictures to create a fictional historical narrative. Lesy combines photographs made by Charles van Schaick in Black River Falls, Wisconsin between 1890 and 1910, with reports taken from contemporaneous local newspapers and other sources. His narrative argues for a dark American history of famine, death, and tragedy, while also underscoring the resilience of a hardscrabble people. What I find most interesting about this book is how it suggests the multiple truths inherent in each group of pictures as well as in history itself. My interest in this book led to a partnership with Magnum photographers associated with Postcards from America to make photographs in Wisconsin including Alessandra Sanguinetti’s most recent work inspired by the book."


by Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan

"A book that was likely influenced by Wisconsin Death Trip, Sultan and Mandel’s "Evidence" reveals the power of context and sequencing to alter or define one’s perception of an image. Evidence teaches you to see, to think, and to consider a particular American history. It’s also funny and ridiculous at times. These are the books that solidified my interest in the vernacular history of photography."


Rich and Poor,
by Jim Goldberg

"It is a tough call between Rich and Poor (1985) and Goldberg’s Raised by Wolves (1995), but Rich and Poor has always been a touchstone for me because of its simple structure and empathetic, but penetrating gaze. Who can resist the poetry Goldberg’s subjects penned in response to his portraits of them? This book demonstrates his longstanding desire to build an intimate connection with his subjects over time, his understanding of the relationship between image and text, and his interest in considering how the American Dream and its pursuit affects how we live our lives. It seems prescient now to have examined San Francisco’s economy in 1985, given the ongoing cycle of boom and bust in the years since. "


Exquisite Pain,
by Sophie Calle

"Here is a book that perfectly captures the desire to cling to the anguish of a breakup while simultaneously analyzing it forensically and obsessively from a distance. Calle engages an exhibitionist, diaristic exercise that also recognizes a universal voyeuristic impulse through a structure that mirrors the arc of suffering."