About This Journal

Studies in Visual Communication (SVC) grew out of the pioneer Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication (SAVICOMM) that was launched in 1974 under the auspices of the American Anthropological Association and edited by Sol Worth of the Annenberg School at Penn. The journal signaled a revival of scholarly work in visual media and communication, following on the earlier work of Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and others in the 1930s, and stimulated by Sol Worth and John Adair’s groundbreaking Navaho Film Project of the late 1960s. The first issues of SAVICOM included work by eminent scholars Howard Becker and George Gerbner, and the first translations of the work of filmmaker Jean Rouch. Becker’s article “Photography and Sociology” is commonly accepted as one of the foundational works in visual sociology. In Vol. 2, no. 2 Jay Ruby wrote “Is an Ethnographic Film a Filmic Ethnography?”– one of the foundational works in visual anthropology.

A particularly notable milestone was Vol. 3, no. 2, which was entirely devoted to Erving Goffman’s Gender Advertisements – later published by Harper and Row, and by Harvard University Press, in book form. The SVC version includes an “Editor’s Introduction” by Sol Worth that some regard as a crucial critique of Goffman’s work (it is not contained in the Harper and Row version).

Following Sol Worth’s death, with Vol. 5, no. 1, Larry Gross and Jay Ruby became co-editors of SAVICOMM and, in 1980, with funding from the Annenberg School, the journal was re-formed as Studies in Visual Communication. The new journal took a broader, multi-disciplinary approach, recruiting an editorial board that included eminent anthropologists (e.g., William Davenport, Henry Glassie, Nelson Graburn, Rhoda Metraux, Annette Weiner), art historians (e.g. Peter Burke, Linda Nochlin, Allan Sekula, Joel Snyder], communication scholars (James Carey, Elihu Katz), film scholars and practitioners [John Reilly, Jean Rouch, Amos Vogel], psychologists (Phoebe Ellsworth, Howard Gardner, Julian Hochberg], and sociologists (Howard Becker, Erving Goffman).

From the first issue, Spring 1980, SVC included numerous photographic images, including photo-essays in nearly every issue. Each issue had a distinctive, unique cover, and each issue was laid out page by page to achieve maximal visual effect. A designer, Penelope Malish, was involved in each issue, from layout through on-site presence at the printer to assure the quality of the images. The journal won awards for its visual achievements: 1982, National Composition Association Award for Typographic Excellence; 1984, American Institute of Graphic Arts Certificate of Excellence.

Some notable examples of SVC’s contents:

  • Vol. 6: 2, was devoted to Robert Flaherty and Nanook of the North, including excerpts from Rotha and Wright’s unpublished biography of Flaherty, Flaherty’s unknown arctic photos, and the unpublished Campaign Book for Nanook of the North. The Rotha book was later published in 1983.
  • Vol. 6:3, included Gregory Bateson’s unpublished Analysis of the Nazi film Hitlerjunge Quex.
  • Vol. 8:1, was devoted to TV documentary, with articles by scholars, such as Eric Barnouw, and filmmakers Robert Drew and Craig Gilbert.
  • Vol. 8: 2 was entirely devoted to a photo-essay, Journey Through the Labyrinth: A Photographic Essay on Israel/Palestine, by the renowned Swiss photographer Jean Mohr.
  • Vol 9: 2, focused on GLBT-related images, with articles by Richard Dyer and James Steakley, and photo essays of the work of 19th century German expatriates Von Pluschow and Von Gloeden, and notable lesbian photographer, JEB (Joan E. Biren).
  • Vol. 11: 1, was devoted to Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s film “Chronicle of a Summer” edited and translated by Steve Feld. The issue was later incorporated into Cine-Ethnography by Jean Rouch and Steve Feld by University of Minnesota press in 2003.
  • Vol. 11: 2, “Images of the U.S.A. was devoted to the work of three German photojournalists who photographed the U.S. in the 1930s.
  • Vol. 11: 4, contained Bertrand Sauzier’s detailed analysis of Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera.