British photographic history

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PhD studentship: Horace Nicholls: artist-photographer at war

Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded PhD at the University of Brighton: “Horace Nicholls: artist-photographer at war”. This is offered under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership programme. The partner institutions are the University of Brighton and IWM. The studentship will be supervised by Professor Darren Newbury and Professor Francis Hodgson at the University of Brighton, and Hilary Roberts of IWM London. This full-time studentship, which is funded for three years at standard AHRC rates, will begin on 1 October 2016.

Horace W. Nicholls was one of Britain’s best known photographers of the early twentieth century. As one of the world’s first true photojournalists, his work shaped that of succeeding generations. Nicholls reported the 2nd Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. He established legal copyright in photographs in a landmark court case in 1901. He documented the impact of total war on the British people, and, as Britain’s first official photographer on the Home Front, had unique access, particularly to women war workers. After the war, he became the new Imperial War Museum’s Head of Studio (Chief Photographer) where he worked to secure and develop the IWM’s photographic collections and documented the evolution of commemorative activities. Today, many of Nicholls’ photographs are familiar but little is known about the man who took them. There has been no significant research, publication or exhibition of his work for forty years. 2017 will be the 150th anniversary of the birth of Horace W. Nicholls and the centenary of his appointment as the first Ministry of Information Home Front official photographer in the First World War. It is also the centenary of IWM’s request to Government that he create a photographic essay of women’s contribution to the war effort. 

Horace Nicholls’ archive, comprising photographs, sketches, documents and printed materials, is now dispersed and little known – a factor which has contributed to his disappearance from public view. The archive is preserved as part of the Royal Photographic Society collection (pre-1914), by the IWM (for the period 1914-36), and by the Horace Nicholls estate. This project will examine these three collections in the context of the First World War centenary; properly evaluate the achievements of Horace Nicholls; the influences that drove him; and the significance of his legacy in terms of:

  1. The evolution of photography as an international mass medium, a form of international propaganda and commemorative medium.
  2. The development of professional photojournalism.
  3. Photography’s capacity to act simultaneously as a medium of art and information and the consequences of this tension for contemporary understanding of the meaning of modern conflict.
  4. Public understanding of the impact of war on civilians in the early twentieth century.
  5. IWM’s early activities as a collector/commissioner of photography.

See more and apply here: http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/research/doctoral-centre-arts/studentshi...

Image: Horace W. Nicolls, British soldiers signalling with flags, First World War, 1914-1918. Image: The Royal Photographic Society Collection / National Media Museum. 

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