Conference Co/Organiser


The Business of Photography

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Co-organised with my colleagues from the Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University, the 2019 annual conference of the Photographic History Research Centre focused on the business of photography. ‘Business’ can have many meanings. In the most straightforward sense, it refers to the photographic marketplace, its industry and the commercial relations established among different agents. Some of these actors, such as studios and companies of the like of Kodak and Ilford, are specifically photographic and have featured prominently in histories of photography. But the photographic business also depends on other social, cultural and economic agents like chemical supply companies, image brokers, content providers, commissioning editors, advertising campaign managers and digitization officers, among others.

Especially since the beginning of the 21st century, historians have begun to pay attention to the broader implications of what one might call ‘the business of photography’. In this sense, it is not only about commerce and trade, but also about visual and material economies, where photography and the many worlds and people it affects directly or indirectly negotiate, define or transform social, cultural, political, scientific, and other ideological environments as well as values.

In this 7th annual conference of the PHRC, we intend to stretch the notion of ‘the business of photography’. While not neglecting the transformative role of photographic companies and that of photographers as businessmen and women, we wish to diversify our understanding of ‘business’ to include the circulation of and the impact exerted by photographic images, objects and raw materials.

The conference will feature seven panels – Influencing Taste; Business-Education / Education-Business; Bureaucratic Record Economies; New Markets; Distribution; Business Administration; Causes and Costs – and the selected papers will think outside of the box while addressing themes such as:

  • Photographic recycling
  • The life of photographic raw materials
  • Gender and photographic businesses
  • The marketization of individual and collective identities
  • Photographic image banks
  • Photography in political and financial economies
  • Photography in the heritage industry

Conferece website


Practices, Circulation and Legacies: Photographic Histories in Central and Eastern Europe

The City Museum of Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana (Slovenia), in association with Liber pro Arte (Warsaw), Humboldt University (Berlin), Institute of Art History, The Czech Academy of Sciences (Prague), Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw) and Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University (Leicester).

Since its very beginnings, professional as well as non-professional photographers have used photography in Central and Eastern Europe to record all aspects of life. Photography has thus participated in spreading and shaping knowledge about the region, its people, and the rest of the world. In spite of the central role photography has played in the diverse socio-cultural environments of Central and Eastern Europe, research on its history in this part of the continent is still little appreciated and remains understudied. The 2018 conference in Ljubljana was the third in a series of international conferences initiated in Warsaw in 2016 with the aim of developing and promoting interdisciplinary studies about photography and its histories in the region.

In 2018, we sought to enhance understandings of the mechanisms and realities that have influenced the development of local photographic practices and their relationship with uses of photography elsewhere. We also aspired to expand knowledge about social and cultural customs that facilitated the circulation and legacies of photographs throughout the medium’s history in the region. Papers therefore addressed a range of interrelated topics, including but not limited to:

  • The history and state of photographic collections/archives, the opportunities they present and the challenges they face
  • The history and state of local research practices and academic discourses on photography (research topics, theory and methodology)
  • The circulation of photographs and photographic images in public and private spheres and their impact on collective imaginations in Central and Eastern Europe (e.g. the uses of photography in art, media, politics…)

Conference website


Material Practices of Visual History

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Co-organised with my colleagues from the Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University, this conference addresses the rich relationship between photography and visual history at the intersection of material practices. Recent focus on materiality and material culture of photographs and films by such authors as Elizabeth Edwards, Chris Morton, Gregg Mittman, Paula Amad, Jennifer Tucker, Joan Schwartz, Steve Edwards and many others has resulted in the proliferation of histories that have at their centre a range of photographic processes. The actors in these histories could be said to belong to a sort of ‘gestural collective’ (Sibum, 1995), churning out the stuff of visual history. For historians who have benefitted from increasing access to the materials of visual history, the gap in knowledge about material practices has been rendered more defined.  At the same moment, it seems increasingly difficult to access these material practices as analogue is forgotten and digital is less well understood. Historians have examined the affective and fluid qualities of photographs, and have turned their attention to past chemical processes and processing, and have attempted recreating them. Photographic technologies such as cameras and lantern projectors have also experienced a renovated interest. Visual histories are more and more about the physical qualities of photographic production, circulation and dissemination.

Photography, video and film, however, are not only historical sources, but active research outputs. Historians like Gregg Mitman and Peter Galison have become filmmakers, producing films, websites, and documentaries (The Land Beneath our Feet, and Containment respectively). Their research is not only based on visual materials, but also articulated in a visual way. The visual is, in their case, a ‘form of reasoning’. This is not the only way in which material practices have changed visual history. The multiplication of digitisation projects in all historical fields demonstrates a pervading interest in visualising data, opening new avenues for the exploration of large collections of images. Aware of the potential of this approach, many universities have started to teach visual history in a range of departments.

The PHRC Annual Conference 2018 looked at intersections of material practices and visual histories. It wished to explore questions such as, how can we do visual histories, and how can visual history account for the material aspects of photographic practices.

Papers focused on a range of themes, including for example:

  • Material archives
  • Visual history and pedagogy
  • Processes and practices of digitalisation
  • Visual communication through photography and/or film
  • Re-creating the past
  • Material aspects of computer programming in visual history

Conference website


Shaping Identities | Challenging Borders: Photographic Histories in Central and Eastern Europe

Institute of Art History, The Czech Academy of Sciences (Prague)

Institute of Art History, The Czech Academy of Sciences (Prague), in association with Liber pro Arte (Warsaw), Humboldt University (Berlin) and the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) at De Montfort University (Leicester).

From its very beginnings photography was understood and used as an influential tool in imagining the self, one’s community and the world. In Central and Eastern Europe, historically an area of many languages, cultural traditions and religious beliefs, but also of shifting borders and changing political systems, this capacity made it an invaluable resource for shaping individual as well as collective identities. Photography in portraiture, family albums, and picture postcards, but also in scientific surveys, literature, or art, to name but a few examples, has spread and challenged here ideas on gender, class, ethnicity and nationality. Despite the notably growing interest in research into the history and theory of photography from this region in recent years, many of its aspects remain under-researched. Among the most omitted in today’s narrative are cross-border topics, particularly those which in reference to the status given to émigré Josef Koudelka by British border control, could be described as ‘nationally doubtful’ parts of multiethnic Central and East European cultural landscapes. Alongside political persecution during the last two centuries, there were other motivations for the migration of photographers, but also for the transfer of knowledge and technology, or the exchange of ideas and styles across social, ethnic and political borders that often escaped the notice of nationally driven accounts of the history of the medium.

The conference aims at challenging established limits within histories of photography. It asks how local circumstances affected the production, dissemination and reception of photography in the societies of Central and Eastern Europe, and how those interacted with trends and developments from abroad. As a follow-up event to the conference “Discovering ‘Peripheries’: Photographic Histories in Central and Eastern Europe” in Warsaw in 2016, this meeting wishes to build upon the exchange between researchers engaged with the subject from different disciplinary perspectives.

We invite proposals for 20-minute presentations that investigate cross-border topics from all periods of the history, theory and historiography of photography in Central and Eastern Europe. Of special interest is the question of how seemingly ‘similar’ photographic subjects, discursive terms and theoretical concepts have been applied in various (national) contexts, but with possibly different meanings.

Submitted proposals could address, but are not limited to one of the following topics:

  • cross-border practices of and discourse on photography
  • photography as a tool in shaping or challenging (national) identities
  • photo historiography and theory in Central and Eastern Europe, research lacunae.

Conference website


Diverse Migrations: Photography out of Bounds

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

The consequences of the expansion of photographic practices around the globe are many and varied. Social interactions through and with analogue and digital photographs and the platforms across which photography is shared and disseminated keep challenging traditional socio-cultural boundaries. For its 2017 conference, Diverse Migrations: Photography out of Bounds, PHRC is particularly interested in how these processes affect peoples whose photographic histories are currently understudied. These may be (but are not limited to) African, Central American and Middle Eastern cultures.

Diverse Migrations: Photography out of Bounds seeks to interrogate what social and other meaningful photographic practices emerge when photographs cross boundaries, and move between individuals, places, and distinct cultural environments. Papers will concentrate on the following themes and related subject matters:

  • transnational and/or emerging photographic practices
  • cross-cultural knowledge exchange through photography
  • migrations across media
  • sharing and exchanging photographs
  • global forums for photography and its theorisation

Conference website


Photography: Between Anthropology and History

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

PHRC16On the occasion of Professor Elizabeth Edwards’ retirement, the 2016 PHRC Annual International Conference will address themes from her complex and wide ranging scholarship on the cultural work of current and historical social photographic practices. Photography: Between Anthropology and History aims to showcase scholarship driven by engagements with research methodologies that informed the material and ethnographic turns in the study of photographic history, and opened up a variety of innovative critical spaces for the re/consideration of photography and its history. Papers will consider questions related to:

  • Photography in historical studies
  • Photography and geography
  • Photographic collections
  • Photographic ethnographies
  • Photography and material culture
  • Historiography of the social history of photography
  • Photographic practice and social as well as technical change

Conference website


Photography in Print

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

IMG_4045Co-organised with my colleagues at the PHRC, Photography in Print explored the functions, affects and dynamics of photographs on the printed page. Many of the engagements with photographs, both influential and banal, are through print, whether in newspapers, books, magazines or advertising. We would like to consider what are the practices of production and consumption? What are the affects of design and materiality? How does the photograph in print present a new dynamic of photography’s own temporal and spatial qualities? In addition, photography can be said to be ‘made’ through the printed page and ‘print communities’. What is the significance of photography’s own robust journal culture in the reproduction of photographic values? How has photographic history been delivered through the printed page? What are the specific discourses of photography in the print culture of disciplines as diverse as history and art history, science and technology? Photography in Print continueed the theme of previous PHRC conferences, which explored photographic business practices and flows of photographic knowledge.

Conference website


Exchanging Photographs, Making Knowledge (1890-1970)

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Photo 07-04-2014 17 31 28Co-organised with my colleagues at the PHRC this two-day international conference explored how collectivities of photography such as camera clubs, photographic societies, commercial photographic studios, and other groups of practitioners produced knowledge about world phenomena, about local and historical events, new technologies, visual practices and techniques, as well as about photographic history itself. In recent years scholars have begun to explore the ways in which photographs have been set in motion since the early nineteenth century in a range of circumstances, both social and cultural. Foregrounding detailed information about some of the main social conditions that enmeshed the use of photography within complex networks of institutional authorities, these accounts have shown how photographic practices and meanings were created jointly, by powerful groups of professionals and organisations. While such studies have clarified that the apparatus of photography and its various functions developed through institutional negotiations with sociocultural and economic forces, systematic interrogations of more prosaic, private exchanges that influenced the development and emergence of photographic enterprises are sparse.

Dominant histories of photography, with their attention on individual photographers have poignantly concealed much of the interpersonal, cross-cultural and collaborative relationships that have been at the core of the development of photographic technologies and processes, photographic images and objects, knowledge and education, as well as of the making of the hegemonic history of photography itself. This two-day conference invited further interrogation of private interactions between camera users, image makers, designers of photographic equipment, writers, publishers and curators. It encouraged contemplation of the impact that such exchanges might have had on the expansion of photography within the private and public, the social and political, as well as the professional and amateur terrains. Thus, the conference reconstructed forgotten links between histories of photography that have become isolated, and it reestablished overlooked connections between individual subjects whose encounters, friendships, collaborations and animosities led to significant practical or theoretical photographic activities.

Conference website


Analogue Photography in the New Media Age

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Analogue Photography in the New Media Age explored the social and aesthetic appeal of resuscitating analogue photographic practices in a digital world. Recent decades have seen the emergence of photographic practices and technologies that have resuscitated either historical image-making techniques or merely the visual properties of analogue photographs. Some of these practices make use of actual analogue processes as alternatives to the digital means of photographic production readily available at present. Others utilise the digital technologies and platforms designed to support the production of photographic imagery whose appearance connotes the aesthetics of analogue photographs. Either way, a tendency to recreate or replicate the visual and physical characteristics of analogue photographs appears to be prevalent amongst amateur and professional practitioners alike.

While scholarly literature on this subject appears scanty, eclectic popular sources provide a number of possible reasons to explain the increasing number of analogue and analogue-looking photographs produced in the new media age. Some believe it is a nostalgic reaction to the rapid transformation of photographs into virtual ephemeral images,that are hyperrealistic and thereby removed from reality itself. Others claim it is the product of digital natives’ curiosity about what they interpret as obsolete technologies and the aesthetics of past times. According to another view, the tangibility of analogue processes and the ability to modify realistic representations by digital means make users feel in control of the mechanical and digital means of photographic production, as well as involved in the materialisation of photographic images and objects. In line with this perception, it is suggested that digital natives understand the physicality of analogue processes as the difference between amateur and professional practice.

It would seem that, in fact, this return to the analogue defines digital photography, its benefits, conventional uses and also its limits and limitations. This one-day postgraduate symposium fostered an interdisciplinary approach to the investigation of the current trend of returning to or reinterpreting analogue photography. In doing so, it addressed a diverse range of environments in which photographs are produced, disseminated or displayed to include, for example, social media, art galleries and museums, educational activities, photographic societies, camera clubs, and others.

Symposium website


Insight Palestina: Images, Discourses, and the Image of Discourse

University of Leeds and the University of Huddersfield, UK

Insight Palestina PosterOrganised with my colleague Lior Libman (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; The University of Leeds), this one-day international conference focused on visual and textual images produced within, and in relation to, the circumstances of the Israel-Palestine struggle. It explored and challenged a range of research approaches to cinematic, documentary, literary, fine art and other media images, and looked into academic studies and patterns of interpretation which tend to solidify exclusive perceptions of politicised images. While such explorations often evoke a belligerent discussion, in which challenging theoretical perspectives are commonly being buried, Insight Palestina specifically focused on perceived relationships between politically-engaged academic investigations and the political agendas represented by the objects of their inquiry. Embracing theoretical and political complexities, Insight Palestina took issue with the reciprocity between images and historical narratives in a context that exceeds formal state, non-reflective and non-self-critical historiography. In this respect, one of its main aims was to explore modes of academic inquiry that are not removed from politicised discourses, while resisting the activation of tangential biased forces and demands. How can academic research modify socio-cultural perceived norms and conventional understandings to materialise a platform which allows for critical distance from binary-oriented political debates? Can academic research open up a space which does not compromise critical theorisation, activism, and radicalism while avoiding the reiteration of biased ideologies? Do academic investigations of politically-loaded images always-already generate or reinforce existing perceptual regimes and opinionated dogmas? Are academic researchers bound to using familiar methodologies in a manner reiterating and cementing political structures, constructions and divisions, even when intending to challenge or reconcile between them? These were some questions that Insight Palestina considered through the examination of various case studies.


Supplementary Conflicts: Domesticities and Life Histories in Wartime

This conference session was part of the 36th Association of Art Historians Annual Conference, 15 – 17 April 2010, held at the University of Glasgow. (closed)


Session Organisers and Convenors:
Paul Fox, University College London
Gil Pasternak, University College London

Session Abstract:
Histories of warfare and insurrection have evolved constantly reflecting, in part, reactions to the shifting nature of war caused by factors including technological innovation, ideological motivation and institutional development. This session will explore personal visual responses to conflict, defined as the activities of armed groupings prepared to use lethal force to achieve political aims. It will consider the role played by visual culture in developing supplementary historical topoi that accompany, and may challenge, both popular and official accounts. We will explore personal visual responses to conflict produced in, or in relation to, the domestic sphere and everyday life, defined as visual representations of subjects played out in the social and political spheres.

Personal visual responses to conflict bear upon subject and identity formation. This session hopes to offer useful insights into the relationship between the historical constituted as narrative, on one hand, and the autobiographical as fantasy (rather than as fiction) on the other. This is not to say that the autobiographical provides greater insight into human experience than other modes of historical inquiry. Rather, this session will hold that autobiographical responses to conflict comprise just one productive source that provides access to the dynamic between the experience of ordinary people and subsequent wider accounts of the same event, in relation to which the personal may emerge as either complementary or subversive. Either way, the dynamic destabilises any tendency to accede unreflexively to dominant accounts of past conflicts. The session will explore the role personal responses to conflict play in the mediation of history and ideology, private and public narrations of history, and individual and collective identities.


Antigoni Memou (University of East London)
A Conflict of Representations: Photography and the Internet in the Zapatista Struggle

Alexandra Moschovi (University of Sunderland)
The Authentic Snap? D.I.Y. Reporting in the Age of ‘We Media’

Jeannine Tang (Courtauld Institute of Art)
Citizens Against Chauvinism: Martha Rosler’s Feminist Polemics

Stina Barchan (Independent)
Dada in the Suburb: Hannah Höch and the Second World War

Chris Cornish (Slade School of Fine Art)
‘The Killbox’: Experiencing Architecture and Landscape in Digital Warfare

Peter Stilton (University of Bristol)
Colin Self’s ‘Archaeology of Anxiety’

Ian Horton (University of the Arts, London)
Wilhelm Sandberg’s ‘Experimenta Typographica’: Domestic Origins and Post-war Impact

Sharon Jordan (Independent)
Painting in Arcadia: Ernst L. Kirchner and Male Friendship, 1914-1917


Visual Conflicts: Art History and the Formation of Political Memory

AHRC funded one-day international conference at University College London.


The Department of History of Art, Saturday, 7 March 2009.

Location: Cruciform Building, Lecture Theatre 2

Organised by: Gil Pasternak and Paul Fox

The conference will explore ways in which visual culture has engaged with armed conflict and politically-motivated acts of violence of all types. It aims to provide a platform for developing links between issues of memory formation, the politics of violence and visual representation. Working with the analytical framework of the discipline of art history, it will consider the entire field of visual representation, to include, for instance, documentary film, reportage as well as images produced by individual agents but that were made public in one wayor another. It will consider questions such as how pre-existing narratives of conflict condition the way in which we derive meaning from representations of politically motivated acts of violence and to explore the implications for art historical inquiry posed by shifts in imaging technologies and of the experience of war itself.

Closing date for registration 27 February 2009. (closed)


Registration and coffee

Tamar Garb, Paul Fox, Gil Pasternak
Introductory Remarks

Tom Gretton (University College London)
Camp life: news pictures of military men and domesticity in British
and French imperial armies c.1870 to c.1900

Eva Kernbauer (University of Bern)
Mediality and historiality in Videograms of a Revolution

Sue Walker (University College London)
Fragments and the epic: soldierly subjectivity after Napoleon


Katy Parry (Liverpool University)
Haven’t I seen that before? Photographic clichés of conflict and loss
in the British press

John Curley (Wake Forest University)
Life magazine “Picture of the Week” from 22 May 1944


Thomas Cauvin (European University Institute)
Exhibiting a conflict during a peace process; bicentenary of the 1798
rebellion in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Kira Shrewfelt (University of South California)
A martyr’s aesthetic: digital media in the twenty first century Middle

Summing up and discussion



Research Spaces: Materisalization of Practice in Art & Architecture

14th – 20th November 2005 (closed)

Hosted by the Slade School of Fine Art and the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London

Organized by:
Willem de Bruijn (Bartlett)
Kristen Kreider (Slade/Bartlett)
Chiristina Malathouni (Bartlett)
Gil Pasternak (Slade)

This AHRC funded week of workshops, exhibitions and paper sessions is a student-run initiative between the Slade School of Fine Art and the Bartlett School of Architecture. Concerned with how research practices materialise within art and architecture as well as in inter- / trans- / cross-disciplinary approaches between these two and other disciplines, Research Spaces aims at making the spaces and materials generated in and between the disciplines not only debatable but also the site of a week-long research event.

Recognising the broad range of interests at both schools – from archiving to film-making; model-making to performance; patterning to painting; drawing to theorising – the conference will explore the spaces produced through specific research practices, asking the following questions:

  • How can researchers open up the production of their research spaces to a wider audience and in what ways are these spaces then occupied, inhabited, activated or otherwise politicised?
  • How do specific research practices materialise: as text, objects, works, constructions – or otherwise?
  • What different types of spaces evolve from the crossover between art and architectural research as well as between these two and other disciplines?
  • How do theoretical and practical concerns interrelate? How do we theorise space? How can we spatialise theory?

The workshops and conference paper sessions will take place from Monday 14th until Thursday 17th November, while the exhibition will develop throughout the week 14th – 20th November in a sequence of rooms at the Woburn Square Studios. Throughout these rooms and for the duration of the week’s events, researchers will be making, performing, teaching, discussing, writing or otherwise materialising their research practices so that the whole program enacts a physical and conceptual journey through variant spaces of contemporary research as produced by all those involved in the events.


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