- 18 Jan 2017
The Photography and Britishness Conference took place at at the Yale Center for British Art on November 4 – 5, 2016 and was the result of a collaboration between the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, and the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino—three research institutions that have a converging interest in British art.
The conference sought to investigate the various ways in which notions of “Britishness” have been communicated, inflected, and contested through the photographic image. It was not a conference about the history of photography in Britain, or about British photography. Rather, it sought to consider the nature of the relationship between photography and Britishness: the notion that photography can capture images of Britishness, at the same time that our sense of what Britishness constitutes is produced by the photographic image. A key question for the conference was whether Britishness can have a photographic referent—or whether it is itself an effect of representation. Speakers at the conference approached these questions from a wide range of perspectives and focusing on a diverse number of photographic materials—from family albums and studio portraits to advertisements, reportage, and aerial photography—which demonstrated the complexities and instabilities not only of the term Britishness, but also of the medium of photography.