Past Events

Concerning Photography: The Photographers’ Gallery and Photographic Networks in Britain, c. 1971 to the present.

Call for Papers

  • 7 June to 19 July 2021

Call for papers
Online conference

Proposed dates

25 November, 1 & 2 December

Submission closing date:

The deadline has now been extended to Monday 19 July

On 14 January 1971, The Photographers’ Gallery opened its doors with The Concerned Photographer, an exhibition which had previously been shown in the United States, Switzerland and Japan, and which presented photography as the optimum medium to document social conditions. This online conference will situate the gallery’s fifty-year legacy of innovative programming within broader infrastructures of exhibition, display and photographic practice. Through a series of papers and discussions, this event proposes to reexamine the spaces and networks that shaped the encounter with photography in Britain, from the 1970s to the present day.

Organised in collaboration with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and designed to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of The Photographers’ Gallery in 1971, this online conference aims to create and support new research on the histories of photography in Britain over the last fifty years, and to offer a space for thinking about the future of the medium and its display.

The organisers invite proposals for 15-minute presentations, on topics that might include the following:

Institutions, Infrastructures and Exhibitions

  • Impact of institutions, galleries, commercial and non-commercial spaces in Britain for shaping the ways in which photography has been encountered and understood
  • Significance of exhibitions of both contemporary and historic photography in creating new narratives for the medium
  • Emergence of galleries and spaces dedicated solely to photography in the second half of the twentieth century
  • The printed page as a space of display, communication and circulation
  • Role of archives, national and special collections as sites for critical debate, examining ownership, access and imbalances in representation
  • Photographic collections and organisations who do not hold permanent collections, and the shifting meaning of photography in these spaces
  • Formation of organisations like Camerawork, Half Moon Workshop, Cambridge Darkroom, The Photographers’ Gallery, Open Eye and Impressions Gallery York in the 1970s (leading to one of the most successful national networks of photo spaces in Europe) and the role played through the establishment of the Photography Department of Arts Council England in 1970
  • Role of organisations, such as INIVA, Black Cultural Archives and Autograph, in challenging existing narratives of photography in Britain, and in questioning the borders, boundaries and definitions of the medium and its histories

Shifting Genres and Definitions

  • Rethinking the historical emergence and development of documentary photography and photojournalism
  • Evolution of fashion photography, migrating from the magazine page to the gallery wall
  • Challenge of vernacular photography (unauthored prints, for example) to the modernist canon
  • Role of the photographic essay and photobook in redefining genres of photography
  • Shifting ideas about ‘British photography’ and its relation to international contexts

Materials, Processes and Theories

  • Material aspects of photography and processes, including the advent of new media and other forms of digital practices; experimentation across other disciplines such as performance, sculpture, installation and painting
  • Theorisation of photography, informed by perspectives from anthropology, sociology, philosophy, politics, art history and contemporary art, decolonialism/decoloniality, race and queer theory, and feminism
  • Examination of the shifting conditions and place of photography in formal education in Britain (the creation of dedicated photography courses in the 1970s and their impact on both the photography sector both UK and internationally

Submission Details

Submission deadline: Monday 19 July

  • All abstracts must be submitted and presented in English.
  • Abstracts should be based on any of the topic areas listed above, or in related areas.
  • Abstracts may not be longer than 400 words.
  • Biographies should be approximately 100 words (please do not send CVs).
  • Notification of acceptance of the abstracts submitted will be sent to you via email by Friday 30 July.

Inquiries and final submissions should be directed to Danielle Convey, [email protected]