Division of Legal, Ethical and Historical Studies
M.A., Ph.D., University of Virginia
B.A., Northwestern University
Nicole Hudgins' C.V. (.pdf)
After completing my master’s degree on an obscenity trial involving translations of Emile Zola from French to English, I decided I needed to switch gears a little. The next task was to create a dissertation project, and I wanted to find a topic that would keep my interest for up to five years (more or less the average time it takes to complete a history dissertation in the United States). I still wanted to do Anglo-French history, but the question was, with which materials? Meditating on the problem, the idea came to me that I was fascinated by old photographs. They seem so mysterious and are often so beautiful or sad. I can never resist pondering the fates of the people they contain. So I decided to pursue a comparative analysis of the history of photography. I was curious about photographs’ ability to reveal and conceal information. But most of the literature on the subject failed to answer my questions about how photography became so widespread or how the practice evolved. I had found timelines, a handful of inventors, and exhibition catalogs, but very little global explanation. There was no social history of photography.
My doctoral research led me to fascinating Victorian networks of amateurs and professionals, artists and tinkerers, printers and female artisans. While doing research in Lille, a northern town in France, I realized that much of this activity came to an abrupt halt in 1914, when the First World War broke out and Lille (and much of northern France) was invaded by the German army. Germany invaded France in 1914 because the latter was an ally of imperial Russia, whom Germany had committed to fight with Austria. The flourishing of photographic experimentation temporarily stopped and, instead, the French army would use photography in its propaganda regime, with the assistance of government officials and the publishing industry. I was struck by how photographic images of French women in distress helped to justify the continuation of an unprecedentedly destructive war. The gender of war and photography became the subject of my first book, an open-access volume published by St. Andrews University.
I love incorporating photography and visual culture into my teaching, too. I was fortunate enough to develop my teaching methods as a new professor at Morgan State University, George Mason University, and University of Maryland, Baltimore County, before arriving at UB in 2009. The Division of Legal, Ethical and Historical Studies is a great place to teach courses on the ethics of war photography and gender. I am proud of joining UB’s tradition of interdisciplinary learning. My UB courses include European history, art history, and Ethics in Business and Society.