British photographic history

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cfp: Photography and Printed Matter 20th Anniversary / St Andrews, proposals by 29 March 2019

The Association for Art History’s Summer Symposium is a two-day annual conference that highlights current doctoral and early career research. This year the Summer Symposium celebrates its twentieth anniversary. The 2019 event will focus on research on photography and other forms of printed matter.

Held at the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews, the conference aims to explore the links between process and product, as well as drawing attention to the variety of different practices and techniques often categorised under the rubric of ‘prints’.

The place of photography at St Andrews is well established. Early practitioners of the medium such as John and Robert Adamson made this small Scottish seaside town the subject of their first experimentations, and the legacy of their work continues to inspire those living and working in St Andrews today. Every year the St Andrews Photography Festival attracts a wide range of contemporary photographers and visitors, while the School of Art History offers a unique MLitt in the History of Photography that focuses specifically on the evolution of the medium, highlighting the University’s extensive collections.

Inspired by these institutional connections, the Summer Symposium asks instead how the influence of photography and print making technologies may connect the local, the national and the international, as well as the historical and the contemporary. For instance, writing on cameraless photography, Jonathan Griffin states that ‘photograms have more in common with print-making, or even with the world’s oldest known paintings: outlines of hands silhouetted by pigment blown on to cave walls in Indonesia and northern Spain, dating from around 40,000 BCE’. Acknowledging this extended genealogy allows us to re-assess the dominant role that prints and photographic images have played across the arts.

Since the invention of the printing press, the potential for the widespread circulation of words and images has increased exponentially. The second main theme of this conference, then, invites reflection on the way we mediate, contextualise and interpret images through printed matter. From captions to contextualisations, illuminated manuscripts to light-sensitive papers, printed matter encompasses a variety of different artefacts including artist’s books, illustrations, engravings, and even art historical texts themselves. Indeed, the photographing or engraving of artworks has enjoyed a crucial role in the reception and the pedagogy of art history regardless of the time period or the geographical location under study.

Considering these strong links between prints and practice, how might the development of new technologies help us think differently about past practices and mechanisms? How might the pervasiveness of photographs and prints, and their potential for replication, lead us to ignore their effects and sociological impact? What, for example, might we learn from the way these technologies are used to create norms or influence how we interpret artworks? Alternatively, to what extent might photography still be considered as ‘other’ in relation to the fine arts, or be involved in processes of ‘othering’ itself? This conference aims to prompt discussion regarding the transhistorical and transnational use of photographs and prints in art history, and the various purposes, projects and contexts in which they are deployed.


Topics can include but are not limited to:

  • The significance and legacy of St Andrews in the history of photography
  • The impact of the replication and reproducibility of images in art history
  • The importance of process on final product e.g. the collaborative nature of printmaking, the role of technology in the creation of art, the different types of printmaking mechanisms (lithography, screenprints, or printing in wax through the medium of sealing)
  • Histories of collecting and curating ephemeral objects, including the role of photography in the museum as a means of conservation or display
  • Practice-led or practice-based approaches to photography and print-making
  • Printed matter in the widest possible remit, including the use of images, captions and illustrations in manuscripts, books, and comics
  • The various purposes and contexts in which photography and prints are deployed e.g. medical, anthropology, scientific, microscopic
  • The role of print making technologies in reception and art history e.g. the photographing of artworks
  • Cameraless photography and the intersection of photography and printmaking

Writing the histories and theories of photography. We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers which explore these themes or which address any other aspect of legacies of photography and printed matter across history.

As this is the 20th year of the Summer Symposium, there will be a special opportunity to visit the University of St Andrews Photographic Collections.

Please send a Word document with your contact information, paper title, an abstract of no more than 300 words, and a short biographical note. The submission of abstracts is open to current doctoral researchers and early career researchers within 5 years of receiving their doctorate.

Download the call here. Please email paper proposals by 29 March 2019 to:

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