British photographic history

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Call for papers: Workers and Consumers: The Photographic Industry 1860-1950 (UPDATED)

The history of photography has largely been dominated by concerns about aesthetic production and its political framings. Such ‘art historical’ approaches have marginalised the study of the economic base of the medium manifested through a developing photographic industry, its related trades and its mass consumers.  Work is now emerging in this field, scattered across a number of disciplines: history, anthropology and history of science in particular. While there has been extensive research on both the politics and the affective qualities of popular photography, family albums, for instance, the missing component in the analysis is often a detailed and empirically informed understanding of the social and economic conditions of product development, labour forces, marketing and consumer demand. This two-day conference aims to bring together a critical mass of research in this area, to explore the state of play in this overlooked but crucial aspect of history of photography, and to suggest new directions for research in the economic, business and industrial history of photography. The conference will explore the period 1860-1950: from the rise of a clearly defined photographic industry, which had a profound effect on the practices and thus social functions of photography, to the expansion of mass colour technologies.


Abstracts of no more than 300 words, for 30 minute papers , should be sent to Professor Elizabeth Edwards ( and Dr Kelley Wilder ( by November 30th  2012.

Details of the conference will be posted in December 2012.



DMU is pleased that the generous support of the Economic History Society has enabled us to offer three student bursaries to the value of £150 each towards travel and accommodation costs for PhD students to present their work at this conference. If you wish to be considered for a bursary please state this in your abstract submission.


Workers and Consumers: The Photographic Industry 1860-1950

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester

24-25 June 2013

Photo: The Thornton-Pickard camera factory, Manchester, c.1890. Courtesy: Michael Pritchard

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