British photographic history

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CFP: Photography and power - 'Daguerreotype. Studies in the history and theory of photography'

In one of his recent statements, Noam Chomsky presented a truly pessimistic diagnosis of our times: the very beginning of the 21st century led us towards the crisis of democracy. Nowadays, we need to confront the system in which property relations play a decisive role in our social network. Power, according to Chomsky, is inevitably associated with wealth. In consequence, the rules of democratic societies are no longer valid, since the capital helps to avoid them.

The need to look at the problem of power in a broader way, which would go beyond the context of political domination, has already become strongly present in contemporary humanities. This topic became the subject of interest of the authorities of our academic discourse (especially Michel Foucault, Pierre Nora or Bruno Latour). Chomsky, however, in the aforementioned statement, also raised a second issue, which is especially important in our attempts to analyse today’s iconosphere: the phenomenon of the so-called ‘fake news’. At this point, his thought meets the observations of Giorgio Agamben. The recognition of the condition of our times made by both scholars is accompanied by the observations regarding the crisis of images. Paradoxically, despite the gradual loss of faith in the image (progressing with the growing awareness of the ways of manipulating it and using it as a means of persuasion) the thesis of Hans Belting, claiming that “we live in images and understand the world in images” still remains in force. After all, armed conflicts and trade wars are followed by the stream of provocative photographs. This spectacle of suffering was considered as a product created for consumption (Susan Sontag) or as a fast stream of “photo-shocks” (Roland Barthes).

We are strongly convinced that the tension growing on the axis power versus photography is the key issue for the research focusing on contemporary visual culture. Therefore, in the next issue of “Daguerreotype. Studies in the history and theory of photography” we would like to invite you to present your answer to the question of how photographic strategies place themselves in the complicated network of power, history, and memory. Let us ask ourselves what role photography can play in the game between those mighty opponents: is it stronger than only a defenceless pawn?

We invite you to send texts regarding the following problems:

  • Blame(less?) photography: photographs as the means of ethical persuasion, ideological propaganda and/or a tool of violence
  • Photography as a form of intervention: are the attempts to construct an unconventional “counter-history” (to use the term coined by the Polish historian Ewa Domańska) always doomed to failure? Can photography serve as a medium of re-figuring an abusive narrative? Or maybe the image, replacing the body, only replaces the actual participation, creating the illusion of participation in the social debate?
  • The transgressive dimension of photography: in what kind of traps can photography fall into? When the strategies of visual rebellion, which were supposed to overcome the dominant power, eventually take its place? How does the reading and meaning of the photograph change depending on the place of its exposure, the field of exploitation or the status and role of the author?
  • Photography through the prism of feminist discourse: photographs as tools for self-identification, the emancipation of body and contestation of social roles imposed by the system
  • Photography and archiving/museum strategies: when organizing can be understood as control over the past, in which only the narratives of winners are present? When and how is curatorial practice an intervention that breaks the status quo and reminds the non-normative attitudes?

The issue of relationship between photography and power requires a broad, interdisciplinary perspective. Therefore, we invite scholars which work in different fields, such as anthropology, social and cultural studies, philosophy or art history, to join this discussion. Our intention is to present both theoretical essays, as well as case studies in our journal. The starting point of each paper can be located in the field of documentary, creative photography or photojournalism, but may also include analysis of examples from the private sphere or from the world of advertisement. Although the tension in the relations of photography and power is particularly noticeable in the era of the digital image, we are open for the reflection which refers to the roots of the photographic medium, which would be close to the title of our magazine and its traditions.

On behalf of the editorial team,

Małgorzata Maria Grąbczewska and Weronika Kobylińska-Bunsch

The deadline for sending the final articles is: 28th February 2019

Please prepare the text according to our editorial guidelines (you can also check our website and then send to the address:  (if you won’t receive a confirmation from us, please send the text again)

We encourage our potential authors to consult the topics of the articles with the editorial board before sending the final text.

No. 2 (26) / 2019: Photography and power


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