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About us

Formally established in 2012, the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre is based in Birkbeck's School of Arts, and is led by Professor Steve Edwards and Dr Patrizia Di Bello, supported by a steering committee. The Centre has links with museums in London, and supports teaching and research on photography in the School through the MA in History of Art with Photography and MPhil-PhD supervision.

The Centre aims to facilitate, exchange and showcase existing and new interdisciplinary research on the History and Theory of Photography at Birkbeck and in the wider photographic and academic community. We recognise that photography is a medium that is at once art, science, commerce, legal or historical evidence, emotional memento, (and many more things besides). We are interested in the materiality of photography throughout the arc of its life – from how it is taken; realized as a tactile as well as visual object (album, print, poster, book, magazine, file, screen); circulated in contexts that might differ widely throughout the lifetime of the photograph (for example from document – historical, legal, scientific, or personal – to ‘art'); and viewed in specific ideological, historical and material circumstances (in the lab, at home, in the gallery, on the ‘phone).

We are committed to working collaboratively and with a range of outputs: reading groups; seminars; conferences; and collaborations with participating Museums and Institutions.

Jo Spence: The Feminist Photography of a Cultural Sniper

Jo Spence was a British writer, educator and photographer – although she was quite ambivalent about being termed an ‘artist’. In fact, she much preferred to call herself a ‘Cultural Sniper’. But instead of brandishing a gun, Spence used her camera to shoot and expose issues in culture.

One of the first woman photographers to confront the anxiety of seeing oneself in photographs, this HENI Talk explores how Spence targeted the media’s representation of women – always coded as young, plucked and perfectly made-up – by laying her own body on the line.

Learn more.