Skip to main content

Professor Steve Edwards

  • Overview




    Steve grew up on a council estate and he was a manual worker before going to art school with the intention of becoming a great artist, instead he found politics and theory. He studied the MA in Social History of Art at the University of Leeds with John Tagg and Griselda Pollock, receiving a Distinction, and then did PhD research at Portsmouth Polytechnic and the University of Leeds with Adrian Rifkin (and for a short while with the late Robbie Grey). Between 1991 and 1997 he was Head of Historical & Theoretical Studies in Photography at the University of Derby. In 1997 he was a visiting scholar at the Victoria & Albert Museum; the same year he moved to the Open University, where he contributed teaching material on nineteenth- and twentieth-century art to a variety of courses and edited three Open University textbooks. In 2006 he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan. Steve was made Professor at the OU in 2013 and, between 2012 and 2016, he was the Head of the Department of Art History. He joined the Department of Art History at Birkbeck in 2016 as Professor of History & Theory of Photography.

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Research Director and REF lead
    • Co-Director History and Theory of Photography Research Centre

    Visiting posts

    • Visiting Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 01-2016 to 03-2006
    • Visiting Professor, Université Bordeaux-Montagne, 10-2018 to 12-2018

    Professional activities

    Senior Teaching Fellow HEA

    Editorial Board: Oxford Art Journal

    Editorial Collective Historical Materialism Book Series (Brill/Haymarket)

    Co-convenor Research Seminar Series 'Marxism in Culture', Institute of Advanced Studies, senate House

    Professional memberships

    • Senior Teaching Fellow HEA

    • AHRC Peer Review College

  • Research


    Research interests

    • History and Theory of Photography
    • History of Art
    • Documentary
    • Nineteenth-Century industrial culture
    • Radical culture and thought
    • contemporary art
    • Marxism and Marxist-Feminism
    • Post-Colonialism
    • Art Theory

    Research overview

    I havea wide range of research interests including: history and theory of photography; nineteenth-century industrial culture; documentary; radical art and aesthetics in the 1970s; contemporary art; and art and social theory (particularly Marxist theory). I've published extensively and my writing has been translated into eleven languages. 

    Grants and funding from: the British Academy; The Leverulme Trust; The Harry Ransom Research Institute, Texas; Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung, Berlin; Helle Panke-Stiftung, Berlin; the Portuguese Ministry of Culture and FAPESP/University of  Sao Paulo, Brazil; Paul Mellon Centre.

    In addition to writing and speaking,I play a prominent role in supporting the infrastructure of collective research. I am currently a member of the editorial collective of the Oxford Art Journal and the highly acclaimed Historical Materialism Book Series (Leiden and Chicago). Between 2010 and 2015 I was an editor of the journal Historical Materialism and helped convene its annual conference. I also an organiser of the long-running research seminar: ‘Marxism in Culture’ at the Institute of Historical Research.

    Research Centres and Institutes

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14



    Teaching modules

    • Debates in Art History (AHVM091S4)
    • Art and Photography Since 1970 (ARVC143S7)
    • Frameworks: Histories and Theories of Art, Architecture, Photography (ARVC247S7)
    • Photography Between Art and Document, 1914 to Now (ARVC302H6)
  • Publications




    Book Section