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History and Theory of Photography Research Centre

Upcoming events

The History and Theory of Photography Research Centre runs a busy schedule of events. See below for forthcoming activities, you can also take a look at our recent events here.

4 April 2018, Who Can Tell? Histories and Counter-Histories of Photography in Canada.

Martha Langford (Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University in Montreal)

When? 6:00-7:30
Where? Keynes Library (room 114)

New national histories of photography are appearing. Some are recuperative, supplementing the canon with missing or underestimated figures. Others are methodological retellings, refreshing the canon with new historiographical perspectives. Some are bent on justice, adapting postcolonial, decolonizing, or settler-colonial theory to the writing of counter-histories. The Canadian situation is somewhat unique. There is no authoritative story to retell, as a national history of photography has never been written. It exists in the collective imagination, based on a substantial repertoire of texts by archivists, curators, critics, theorists, and photographers. Never consolidated – never imbued with canonical authority – the idea of such an official history nevertheless invites reconsideration in the form of counter-histories. This paper considers the entanglement of history and counter-history in photographic studies, posing the deceptively simple question: which is which?

Continuing in the PELTZ GALLERY until 28 April (Closed 29 March – 3 April) - CULTURAL SNIPING: Photographic Collaborations in the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive

Come to see the exhibition, or join us for roundtable discussions on:

  • Thursday 19 April, 6-7:30, Cinderella: Women, Class and Fairy Tales in Jo Spence's work
    with Marina Warner and Frances Hatherley, chaired by Lynda Nead.
  • Thursday 26 April, 6-7:30, Collaborative Projects: Pleasures and Pains
    with Rosy Martin, Carla Mitchell, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, and Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, chaired by Patrizia Di Bello

9 March – 28 April 2018: Cultural Sniping: Photographic Collaborations in the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive

9 March – 28 April 2018 in the Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD

This exhibition showcases important materials from the archive of the late Jo Spence, British photographer, writer, and self-described 'cultural sniper', tracing links and collaborations in activist art, radical publications, community photography and phototherapy from the 1970s and 1980s. Consistent with Spence's ethos of radical pedagogy, this exhibition focuses on her collaborative working methods. It opens up the archive, displaying books, magazines, journals, collages, photographs, posters, pamphlets, notes, letters and props, to provide insights into Spence's practices and the culture, politics and activism informing them. Screenings and workshops will run alongside the exhibition.

On display are works made in association with Spence's collaborators, including Terry Dennett and Rosy Martin. Materials from the Photography Workshop community project to the Polysnappers, the group she worked with while a mature student, show how they used photography to interrogate dominant representations of labour, class, race, gender and sexuality, developing a praxis of political and social change through education. Life-long learning was crucial to Spence, who encouraged others to engage in visual critiques and consciousness-raising projects based on their own life experiences. She and Martin pioneered the practice of phototherapy, working through themes of working-class identity and stigmatisation, sexuality, grief and illness, using photography in an empowering and transformative way.

Curated by Patrizia Di Bello, Frances Hatherley, and a group of Birkbeck students. Supported by a grant from Birkbeck Alumni Fund. Part of Birkbeck's Opening up Art History 50th anniversary celebrations.

Keep an eye on the exhibition page for more information!