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Towards a Social History of Photoliterature and the Photobook

MFO Photography Seminar Series photo
Wednesday, May 2, 2018 - 3:00pm
2-10 Norham Road, Oxford OX2 6SE
Maison Française d’Oxford

Towards a Social History of Photoliterature and the Photobook

This international seminar series brings together researchers working on photography and the book with interdisciplinary approaches, connecting the aesthetic and material dimensions of the photobook with social, economic and political perspectives.

Whilst the scope of the seminar encompasses general aspects of “photography and literature” — such as photographically illustrated fiction, writers’ portraits, the use of photographic activities, products or metaphors in writing — the primary theme of the seminar is the history and current state of the photobook. The aim is to encourage and disseminate research on its social history, its physical forms (including digital), its relations with the art market/bibliophile market, its networks of production, circulation, readership, as well as its engagement with race, whiteness, colonialism, gender and sexuality, and, where pertinent, its ethnographic methods.

Since the end of the economic model that allowed photojournalism to flourish in periodicals over the course of the twentieth century, photographers have increasingly resorted to alternative spaces, and most notably the book. Since the well-distributed publication of Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s The Photobook: A History (2004), interest in photographers’ books has increased dramatically at auction houses, and the question of “value” has become insistent and complex. Book studies, anthropology, sociology, comparative literature, history of art… different disciplines can help shed light on the social meanings of photobooks, hence the need for an interdisciplinary seminar.


From 15:00:

  • Heidi Brevik-Zender (University of California, Riverside): "Jane Dieulafoy's Persian photographs and her novel 'Parysatis' (1890)"
  • Emilia Terracciano (Ruskin School of Art): "Becoming Palm (2017): Botany and performance in the work of Simryn Gill"

From 17:15:

  • Benjamin Tree (De Montfort University): "International networks of the photo-book in the 1950s and early 1960s"
  • Annebella Pollen (University of Brighton): "Evaluating photobooks: from ugly to beautiful"

This seminar series is convened by Dr Paul Edwards.

Tea will be served at 17:00.

Contact name: 
Paul Edwards
Open to all