The Importance of Exhibitions and Exhibition Reviews
Fine artists and fine arts photographers often begin their careers through exhibiting their work in galleries. Usually group shows come first, then solo exhibitions. Perhaps a retrospective exhibition will be held after the artist/photographer has worked for many years. By reading exhibition reviews, the evolution of a career can be traced over time. Exhibition reviews are commonly published in arts magazines.
Some exhibitions are accompanied by exhibition catalogs in book form. They may contain analytic essays about the work and place the artist/photographers work in the context of contemporary art. These essays can be very valuable in understanding the work. Most exhibition catalogs and monographs about photographers are located in the TR section of the Otis Library. This section will include both commercial and fine arts photography. But fine arts photography may also be found in the N section of the Library. The OPAC is the best method to locate catalogs. Use the search term "Photography, Artistic -- Exhibitions."
Finding Information in Online Databases
Encyclopedias are an excellent beginning way to find good background information. Oxford Art Online is an excellent academic online encyclopedia. Movements -- like Bauhaus and Postmodernism -- will be defined, sometimes in great detail. But don't expect every photographer to be listed there. Sometimes a print version subject-specific encyclopedia or biographical dictionary, such as Contemporary Photographers, and American Photographs, will include more. These are located in the TR section of the Reference area of the Library.
Art Source is an excellent database which broadly covers art, photography, and design periodicals. It's available through the link to Databases on all Library web pages.
Once you get a list of hits, look at them carefully. You can determine a lot simply by reading the titles. Sometimes you will see an indication about the content of the article, such as that it is an exhibition review. Obituaries are generally not critical, but they are often good summations of an artist's career. Ignore the book reviews and reproductions. Those won't help. Notice that the page numbers are listed. Longer articles will probably be more in-depth. Also, notice if there is an author listed. Reviews by known writers are preferable.
Many databases include "full-text" articles. Although originally published in print, it means that the actual article is reproduced there in plain text or a PDF version. Lucky you. You can read the articles on screen, email them to yourself, or print them.
One problematic aspect about databased articles is that you don't see them in the context of the full magazine. Unless you look at the actual original print version, you may have difficulty evaluating the publication. As design students, it's a good idea to become familiar with as many of these periodicals as you can, so do have a look at some of these magazines on the shelves.
Locating Older Journal Articles
You should know by now that you won't always find everything online in full-text. When you need to locate the print version of a periodical, you can use the Otis collection of back issues, which includes hundreds of bound volumes. Some are in the Stacks and some in the Annex, which requires paging. Some databases have a link by to the Otis holdings or OPAC. Or you can look in Library's Magazine Holdings List.
Finding Books and Exhibition Catalogs
Use the Library Catalog (OPAC) to find exhibition catalogs and books about an artist or photographer. Sometimes the Table of Contents will be included in the OPAC and there may be a chapter about your designer or movement. Search broadly at first by using the "keyword" search box.
An catalog, by definition, includes lists and images of works from a particular museum or gallery exhibition of the artist's work. They often include essays written by the curator or critics. It's probably an exhibition catalog if it is published by a gallery/museum and if the word "exhibitions" appears in the subject field. Sometimes the date of the exhibition appears in the title field. Photographers may or may not participate in exhibitions.
Assistance Is Readily Available
The librarians and the library staff are your friends. Ask for reference or computer troubleshooting any time. The SRC also has tutors available to assist you with the writing of papers. Start early so that you will have time to avail yourself of these services. We all want to support your learning experience.