Benjamin J. Young is a historian of art and photography.

He is currently a Faculty Associate in Art History at the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts, Arizona State University.  He received a PhD in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley, and was previously a Mellon Teaching Fellow in the Society of Fellows and Lecturer in Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, as well as Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History at Purchase College, State University of New York. He has previously taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology; Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College, The New School; New York University; the School of Visual Art; and the University of California, Berkeley. For many years, he was an advisor to the Curatorial Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program.

He is also managing editor of Grey Room, a quarterly academic journal of art, architecture, media, and politics published by MIT Press.

He is turning his dissertation, “Sympathetic Materialism: Allan Sekula’s Photo-Works, 1971–2000” (University of California, Berkeley), into a book. In addition to Sekula, he has written texts on artists such as David Antin, Eleanor Antin, John Baldessari, Harun Farocki, Fred Lonidier, Martha Rosler, and Carrie Mae Weems, among others. A recent essay on LaToya Ruby Frazier’s The Last Cruze, in the exhibition catalogue from the Renaissance Society, situates her photographic survey of workers made during the closure of the GM automobile factory in Lordstown, Ohio, in a broader history of critical documentary and images of workers leaving the factory. Another recent essay, “ ‘Decolonize This Place’ : Realism and Humanism in Photography of Israel-Palestine,” addresses the role of both contemporary art and documentary photography in decolonization struggles, human-rights activism, portraiture after humanism, and emerging discourses of forensic aesthetics.


“Photography at the Factory Gates”

LaToya Ruby Frazier: The Last Cruze, exh. cat. (Chicago: Renaissance Society, 2020)

“ ‘Decolonize This Place’ : Realism and Humanism in Photography of Israel-Palestine

“Disassembled” Images: Allan Sekula and Contemporary Art, ed. Alexander Streitberger and Hilde Van Gelder (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2019)

Documents and Documentary: San Diego, c. 1973

The Uses of Photography: Art, Politics, and the Reinvention of a Medium, ed. Jill Dawsey, exh. cat. (San Diego: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Oakland: University of California Press, 2016)

Hostile Takover” Questionnaire

Fear of Content, 9th Berlin Biennale, September 2016

Coeditor (with Marie Muracciole), Special Issue: Allan Sekula and the Traffic in Photographs

Grey Room 55 (Spring 2014)

Editors’ Introduction” and “Arresting Figures

Special Issue: Allan Sekula and the Traffic in Photographs, Grey Room 55 (Spring 2014)

On Strike: Allan Sekula’s Waiting for Tear Gas

Sensible Politics: The Visual Culture of Nongovernmental Activism, ed. Yates McKee and Meg McLagan (New York: 
Zone Books, 2012)

Seafarers All

Artforum.com, February 2012

Zwelethu Mthethwa

Artforum.com, September 2010

On Media and Democratic Politics: Videograms of a Revolution

Harun Farocki: Working on the Sightlines, ed. Thomas Elsaesser (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004)
Excerpted and trans. in Multitud singular: El arte de resistir, exh. cat. (Madrid: Museo Reina Sofia, 2010)


Capture and Counter-documentary: Art and Photographic Realism in the 1970s

Society of Fellows, Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University, New York, October 28, 2021

Photography at the Factory Gates: LaToya Ruby Frazier’s The Last Cruze

Society of Fellows, Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University, New York, September 10, 2020

LaToya Ruby Frazier: The Last Cruze

Panel discussion with Werner Lange and LaToya Ruby Frazier.
Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Chicago, October 12, 2019

Allan Sekula: Photography, A Wonderfully Inadequate Medium

Panel discussion with Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Marie Muracciole, and Stephanie Schwartz.
Marian Goodman Gallery, London, May 18, 2019

Thinking Through Farocki

New York University, New York, April 28, 2019

Media and Its Apparatuses

Panel discussion with Anthony Cokes, Jonathan Crary, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Laura Mulvey, and Soyoung Yoon.
Independent Study Program, 1968–2018: 50th Anniversary Symposium, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 20, 2018

Fish Story by Allan Sekula

Panel discussion with Eduardo Cadava, Nadja Millner-Larsen, and Sally Stein.
E-Flux, New York, September 21, 2018

“ ‘Almost Nothing’ : Reinventing Documentary after Brecht”

Paper presented at From Monsters to Models: Representing the World Economy and Its Discontents.
Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany, July 2018

“ ‘Decolonize This Place’ : Realism and Humanism in Photography of Israel-Palestine”

Paper presented at “Disassembled Images”: Contemporary Art after Allan Sekula.
University of Leuven and Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA), Antwerp, March 2017

Moderator, Sense of Emergency: Politics, Aesthetics, Trumpism

New York University, December 2016

“Escape from Fantasy Island: Activist Adventures in the Pseudo-Public Sphere”

Paper presented at Acts of Dissent: Reflections on Art & Politics in the 21st Century.
College Art Association, Chicago, February 2014

“Arresting Figures”

Paper presented at Colloque Allan Sekula: La photographie au travail.
Centre Pompidou, Paris, June 2013


Paper presented at How Can Art Effect Political Change?
Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New School University, New York, October 2012

Organizer and panelist, Sympathetic Materialism: An Evening with Allan Sekula.

Screening and discussion with Allan Sekula.
16 Beaver Group, New York, February 2012

Co-organizer, Occupation: Calls and Responses. An open call and artist presentations relating to Occupy Wall Street

16 Beaver Group, New York, October 2011

Co-organizer and panelist, Something Becomes Visible: A Molecular Seminar On/With Harun Farocki

Three days of screenings and seminars on the work of Harun Farocki.
16 Beaver Group, New York, November 2010


Courses taught include:

The Art of the Document
Global Photography
Art, Modernity, and Environment
New Media and Contemporary Art
Art since 1945
History of Photography
Western Theories of Art
Postwar Art and Theory
Modern and Contemporary Art I, 1848–WWI
Modern and Contemporary Art II, WWI–1965
Objecthood and Environment in 20th Century Art
Modern Art and War
Enlightenment and the Optical Unconscious