9:45 - 10:15 Registration
10:15 - 10:30: Introductory comments (Sara Dominici, IMCC/ University of Westminster)
10:30 - 12:00: PANEL 1: Writing not about the visual product (Chair: Sara Dominici)
- Gil Pasternak, Reader in Social and Political Photographic Cultures, Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC), De Montfort University
- Steve Edwards, Professor, History and Theory of Photography, Birkbeck, University of London
- Annebella Pollen, Principal Lecturer, History of Art and Design, University of Brighton
12:00 - 1:00 Lunch break (not provided)
1:00 – 2:30 PANEL 2: Thinking across sources, media and technologies (Chair: John Beck, IMCC/University of Westminster)
- Nicoletta Leonardi, Associate Professor, History of Art, Brera Academy of Fine Arts
- Michelle Henning, Professor, Photography and Media, University of Liverpool
- Geoffrey Belknap, Head Curator, National Science and Media Museum
2:30 – 3:00 Comfort break
3:00 – 4:30 PANEL 3: New directions in photographic studies (Chair: David Cunningham, IMCC/University of Westminster)
- Patrizia Di Bello, Professor, History and Theory of Photography, Birkbeck, University of London
- Geoffrey Batchen, Professor, History of Art, University of Oxford
- Elizabeth Edwards, Professor Emerita, Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor V&A / Photographic History, De Montfort University
4:30 - 4:45 Concluding remarks
SYNOPSIS OF RESPONSES BY PANEL
- Gil Pasternak: Photographic scholarship, similarly to scholarship in any other academic area, has been influenced by multiple theoretical, social, and cultural paradigms throughout the history of the study of photography in academia. In my response to the questions raised by this panel, I would therefore like to suggest that the question of what do photography scholars write about beyond the visual product is in fact a question concerning the purpose of photographic scholarship in our time. It prompts us to ask, in other words, who needs it at the beginning of the twenty-first century and to what end. Attempting to make at least a few suggestions towards an answer, I will differentiate between inward- and outward-looking scholarly approaches to photography to assess the interdisciplinary boundaries of photography studies and as a means to foreground the field’s current range of contributions to research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Part of my response will also consider the impact that digitization initiatives in the culture and heritage sectors have exerted on the field and on its level of interest in photography’s visual products more specifically.
- Steve Edwards: Some working lives in photography at the close of the 19th century: the history of photography has regularly been told as a history of images, but photography can be approached in many other ways. This presentation looks at industry and work in the photographic filed at the end of the nineteenth century. Focusing on the capitalist transformation of the trade, I will look at a number of radical responses that include trade union organising and self-organised co-operative studios.
- Annebella Pollen: To think about photographs as objects as well as images, and as textures as well as surfaces, has emerged as an influential way of feeling photographs as well as understanding them visually: this approach constitutes a form ‘tactile looking’, as Margaret Olin has put it. Photographic materiality is most clearly highlighted in the work of contemporary practitioners who blur the boundaries between photographs and textiles in their creative productions. Embroidered interventions onto photographic substrates, as seen, for example, in recent exhibitions by Joana Choumali, Diane Meyer and Ruth Singer, suggest that an understanding of needle and thread is as central to these objects’ interpretation as the tools of photography studies.
- Nicoletta Leonardi: In order to fully understand photography’s role in our society, the material stuff as well as the material and immaterial networks that make up its processes, we need to stop writing medium specific histories. We need to locate photography within more comprehensive media histories that point to the processes of convergence between different media and technologies, and look at the complex relationship between rupture and continuity, between the old and the new, offering an escape from the otherwise limiting boundaries of historical narratives based on the idea of technological revolutions.
- Michelle Henning: I use archival resources, from journal articles to market research, to instructions on rolling, packaging and using film, to understand what cultural techniques and practices shape photographic aesthetics. The manufacture and circulation of photographic materials not only produces specific ways of picturing the physical and social environment but has a material effect on it. While my work is not directly or solely about the image — and I consider photographic technologies that don’t lead to an image as the end product — I am interested in what kinds of material practice and labour lie behind photographic images.
- Geoffrey Belknap: I want to think about how we study the traces of photographic meaning – the process of making and reproducing, reading and interpreting, consuming and distributing images. How, moreover, can we study these traces beyond the photochemical image – in other visual and textual forms. Finally, I want to think about the implications this approach to photography has to how we understand and theorize photographic histories on the one hand, and how this affects how we collect, store and display photography in GLAM contexts on the other.
- Patrizia Di Bello: Images, beyond and nearby: reflecting on past issues of the journal History of Photography (which started publication in 1977), as well as my recent experience as its editor-in-chief, this paper considers the importance of writing and reading both nearby and far away from images. Is an interest in ‘moving beyond the analysis of the visual product’ a recent development? What is the importance of conceptualising photography as an activity that is meaningful, regardless of the images it produces? Why we – as writers, editors, and readers, or indeed photographers – still want them? What might be the challenges, practical as well as intellectual, of writing and publishing histories of photography, both outside and within the physical limits of photographs?
- Geoffrey Batchen: Photography and dissemination: rather than presume to tell others what direction their studies should take, my paper presents a reflection on my own recent work and its challenges for me. Seeking to shift attention from the photograph to the photographic image, this work has sought to trace the dissemination of this image. This has meant embracing the complexities of photography’s reproducibility, and with it the political economies of mass production, repetition, circulation and exchange that enable it. The result is a history of photography built around the logic of movement and transformation, migration and displacement. It is, in short, a history for photography rather than of photographs.
- Elizabeth Edwards: I shall discuss the challenges that taking global histories of photography seriously brings to the normalised epistemic categories and assumptions of photographic history and photographic theory, and the resistance of photographic history to that challenge. What are the implications of an inclusive photographic studies going mainstream, not through internalising the powerful critical structures that have shaped so much of the rhetoric around photographs, but by using the multiple concepts which emerge from debates of global photography to supply a re-invigorated and enriched language of analysis and its associated categories?