British photographic history

Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history

cfp: British Photography since 1972 / deadline extended to 28 March 2022

The Royal Photographic Society’s Historical Group was formed on 22 March 1972 at a time when photography in Britain was undergoing a significant transition. The RPS, itself, was in a process of modernisation as it sought to remain relevant to British photography. The way photography was taught in higher education reflected a move away from the technical to a focus on approach and the content of the picture. New galleries showing photography were established, national museums and galleries began to take photography seriously and the Arts Council appointed its first photography officer. The period also saw major upheavals for the industry and the profession with recessions, a move to digital, and new ways for commissioners to source content. The way photography was experienced, shared and disseminated changed dramatically later in the period with the advent of new digital technologies.

The conference will examine how these changes have impacted British photography and photographers over the fifty years from 1972-2022. Papers may also look at how particular photographers’ work has evolved over the period. Some of the possible themes include, but are not limited to:

  • Museums, galleries and collections: broadly and within specific institutions; the independent gallery scene; how the art world embraced photography; curatorial practice and presentation; the RPS Collection
  • Education: how photographic higher education has changed; how photographic history has been used across disciplines and taught; the independent photography sector; photography in schools
  • The market for photography: auctions, commercial galleries, dealers, collecting by individuals; the loss of photographic heritage; fine art photography
  • The law: Intellectual property: photographers’ rights; privacy and surveillance
  • Community groups: collectives; camera clubs
  • Geographical perspectives: specific changes in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England; Britain’s position in international photography
  • The public and photography: the popularisation of photographic history on television, genealogy, and local history; experience through newspapers, publications, and online
  • Photography as a profession and industry: the markets and changes to industrial, commercial and social photography; photojournalism and advertising and editorial; manufacturing and retailing; the photographic periodical press; publishing and the photobook
  • Photographers and Photography: changes to individual practice; new approaches to genres of photography e.g. documentary, landscape, etc
  • Digital: its impact; new ways of sharing and engaging with photography

Proposals should be focused on the period from 1972 to the present and the British experience.


The conference welcomes proposals from academics, early career researchers, postgraduate students;  those working within photography, education and heritage, and photographers.

Proposals of up to 300 words with a short biography should be sent to has been extended to 28 March 2022.Papers should be 25 minutes in length. Papers will be grouped by theme at the conference.

The conference will open for registrations on 14 April 2022. It takes place at RPS House, Bristol, on 1 and 2 July 2022. 

British Photography since 1972: Commemorating fifty years of the RPS Historical Group
Conference: 1-2 July 2022, Bristol, UK



Image: a cover of The Photographic Journal from 1972. 

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