Robin Kelsey

Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography


Robin Kelsey is the Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography at Harvard University. He is also a member of the Committee on Higher Degrees in the History of American Civilization and a Faculty Associate of the Center for the Environment. He holds a PhD from Harvard and a JD from Yale Law School and has practiced law in California.

A specialist in the histories of photography and American art, Professor Kelsey has published on such topics as the role of chance in photography, geographical survey photography, landscape theory, ecology and historical interpretation, and the nexus of art and law. His book, Archive Style: Photographs and Illustrations for U.S. Surveys, 1850-1890, was published in 2007 by the University of California Press, and his book Photography and the Art of Chance is scheduled to be published by Harvard University Press in 2015. With Blake Stimson, he co-edited a book entitled The Meaning of Photography, published by the Clark Art Institute and Yale University Press in 2008. In 2004, he was awarded the Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize by the College Art Association for his essay “Viewing the Archive: Timothy O’Sullivan’s Photographs for the Wheeler Survey, 1871-1874.” He has held several fellowships, including a Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Clark Art Institute Fellowship, and in 2006 received Harvard’s Roslyn Abramson Award for excellence and sensitivity in teaching undergraduates. He has served as chair of the Harvard University Committee on the Arts, co-chair of the Visual Representation, Transmission, and Translation Seminar at the Humanities Center, and is founder of the Harvard Photography and History Workshop. In 2010-2011, he was the Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor at Williams College and, for five weeks, a visiting professor at the École normale supérieure, Paris, under the auspices of the Terra Foundation for American Art. He has served for two years as Chair of the Department of History of Art and Architecture, and is on research leave for the academic year 2014-15. He lives in Cambridge with his wife, Sara St. Antoine, and their two daughters.

Selected Publications

  • Kelsey_ArchiveStyle

    Archive Style: Photographs and Illustrations for U.S. Surveys, 1850-1890 (University of California Press, 2007), by Robin Kelsey