About Me

Dr Gil Pasternak

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I am Associate Professor – Research / Reader in Social and Political Photographic Cultures in the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) and Programme Leader of MA in Photographic History. I am also Member of AHRC Peer Review College Academic & International (2020-2024), Project Leader of the European Commission funded research programme Digital Heritage in Cultural Conflicts (2018-2021) and Visiting Professor in Vehbi KOÇ Ankara Research Center at Koç University, Turkey (2020/21).

Investigating intersections of photography with politics and cultural heritage practices, much of my research draws on my past professional experience as photojournalist, fine art photographer, photography instructor and photography archivist. Alongside writings on photographic historiography, my key publications focus on individual and public deployments of private, family, amateur and archival photographs, in contexts such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli society, twentieth-century Poland, and the histories of Polish Jewry from the interwar to the post-communist era. Most recently I published the edited books Visioning Israel–Palestine: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict (2020), The Handbook of Photography Studies (2020) and a special issue of the journal Photography & Culture titled “Photography in Transitioning European Communist and Post-Communist Histories” (2019).

In 2018, I secured a large research grant of over £500,000 to lead the project ‘Digital Heritage in Cultural Conflicts’. Exploring the production, dissemination and exploitation of digital heritage in nationally defined zones of cultural conflict, the project takes particular interest in multimedia museums, in born-digital and digitised oral histories, and in born-digital and digitised photographs. It is carried out through the collaborative research activities of the international, interdisciplinary DigiCONFLICT Research Consortium (De Montfort University, UK; Liber pro Arte, Poland; Linköping University, Sweden), and the grant was awarded by the Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage (JPICH), funded by the European Commission (Horizon 2020).

Strongly believing in the ability of applied research to improve social life, inclusivity and wellbeing, I have also delivered multiple photography based community engagement events on trans-/national living heritage, which resulted in a variety of co-created outputs. My demonstrated commitment to international policies on inclusivity and diversity in cultural heritage practices has led to my appointment as specialist consultant for grassroots organisations and government advisory committees in various countries.

At DMU I am leading MA modules focusing on photographic ethnographies, theories, research methods and methodologies. I have also supervised doctoral students on the following PhD research projects:

  • Photography’s World: Transnational Photography Books in the Postwar Period (1950-1970) (1st supervisor; completed in 2017).
  • Visual Voyage of Palestine Refugees: The Social and Political Life of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s Photo Archive (1st supervisor; ongoing).
  • A National Complex: Institutional photography in after-post-communist Hungary, 2006-2018 (1st supervisor; ongoing).
  • Classroom Photographic Journeys: Alfred Hugh Fisher and the British Empire’s Development of Colonial-era Visual Education (1st supervisor; ongoing).
  • Photography’s Outsiders: A Comparative Study of Photographic Sharing and Knowledge Exchange in Two Groups of Amateur Photographers (1843-60 and 2004-12) (1st supervisor; ongoing).
  • Reciprocal Transformations: E-Hagaki Picture Postcards Reshaping Cultural Values Before, During and After the Russo-Japanese War (1st supervisor; ongoing).
  • All Rights Reserved: Copyright and Patent Laws’ Impact on the Commercialisation of Permanent Photographs of Artworks in Europe, 1865-1900 (2nd supervisor; ongoing).
  • Manufacturing a Subversive Reality: Backdrops and Photographic Manipulations in Cameroonian studio Photography (2nd supervisor; ongoing).

Moving forward, I welcome PhD applications on topics such as photography and safeguarding practices of living heritage; photography in digital heritage; family photography; photography in Jewish cultures; and socio-political Eastern European and Middle Eastern photographic cultures.

In addition to my work on digital and living heritage, I have worked and published on political photographic practices in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Arab-Israeli wars, Israeli national security, nationalised private collections, and the administration of Israeli-Palestinian landscapes. Exploring synergies between private photographic practices, curatorial tendencies, and historical realities, I have also published on the photographic cultures developed by minority groups in Poland (in particular Jewish) during the Second Polish Republic, (1918-1939), the Polish People’s Republic (1947-1989), and since the foundation of the Third Polish Republic (1989-present). Other publications revolve around photographic historiography (canonical, social, cultural and “vernacular”), the photographic industry’s tacit influence on private and amateur photographic practices (mainly Kodak), the making and nationalisation of photographic autobiographies, everyday photography and photographs in everyday living.

I studied for my Ph.D. in the History of Art Department at University College London (UCL), where I specialised in the theory and history of photography in the context of fine art, visual and material cultures. Prior to my appointment at DMU, I was Senior Lecturer in Photography and Photography Course Leader at the School of Art, Design and Architecture, the University of Huddersfield (2009-2013), Teaching Fellow History of Art at UCL (2007-2010), and Associate Lecturer Art History and Theory at Chelsea College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London (2006-2010). Earlier in my career I worked as a photojournalist, as well as a war photographer in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and in South Lebanon. I also practiced fine art photography and presented my work in a number of art galleries, including Tate Modern (one-day installation), Norwich Art Gallery, The Agency, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Machida Municipal Print Museum (Tokyo), Kodeljevo Grad (Slovenia), and Gallery Infra (Sweden). Although I no longer practice photography in the context of fine art or reportage, I am still interested in the historical development of these practices, as well as in the theoretical frameworks that they generally generate in the broader field of photography studies.

Outside of DMU, I am a member of AHRC Peer Review College – Academic & International; co-director of Ph: Photography Research Network; and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Photography & Culture (Taylor & Francis), Jewish Film & New Media (Wayne State University Press), The International Journal of the Image (Common Ground), and EP (Sternberg Press).

Consultancies and academic activities away of my university include:

  • Black Country Visual Arts (BCVA): member of the advisory board; adviser on digitisation methodology, archival practice, and the cultivation of participatory culture, in particular for the Apna Heritage Archive project.
  • Nikon Corporation (European marketing team): adviser and content generation for Nikon’s 100th Anniversary celebrations (2017).
  • BBC Four: adviser for the production of the film Smile! The Nation’s Family Album (2016/17).
  • BBC Arts: publication entitled Five game-changing cameras that turned us into photographers, in association with the film Smile! The Nation’s Family Album for which I served as a consultant (2017).
  • BBC Factual: provided expert advice for a film production on safety and accessibility of family photography albums in the digital age (2017).
  • Polish Ministry of Higher Education: adviser for the project Photography in the Humanities (Miejsce fotografii w badaniach humanistycznych), Society Liber Pro Arte (2015/16).
  • Nikon Corporation: adviser for the European marketing team of the annual Nikon Photo Contest International (2014/15).
  • Panellist for the AHRC Midlands3Cities (M3C) Consortium (2016–2017).
  • Proposal Evaluator for Austrian Science Fund (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, FWF; 2020)
  • Proposal Evaluator for Collaborative Research Actions Scheme, University of Liège (Belgium).
  • Proposal Evaluator for National Science Centre, Poland (Narodowe Centrum Nauki – NCN; 2019).
  • Proposal Evaluator for Czech Science Foundation (2016).
  • Proposal Evaluator for The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO, the Dutch Research Council; 2016).
  • Book Proposal Evaluator for Routledge; Taylor & Francis Group (2018–Present).
  • Book Proposal Evaluator for Bloomsbury Publishing (2015–Present).
  • Research Proposal Evaluator for Israel Science Foundation (2014–2017).
  • External Examiner, BA(hons) Photographic Arts, University of Westminster, London (2013-Present).
  • External Examiner, BA(hons) Photography and BA(hons) Filmmaking, Kingston University, London (2013-2015).
  • External Assessor for new academic programmes and programme re/validation panels, Teesside University, UK (2013-2015).

In addition I am peer reviewer for the following journals:

Memberships of professional and academic organisations have included: International Communication Association (ICA), Association of Art Historians (AAH), College Art Association (CAA), the Association of Photography in Higher Education (APHE), the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photography (AHFAP) and Ph: The Postgraduate Photography Research Network. In 2011 I was awarded Fellowship status of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

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