‘The British, American and French Photobook’

Maison Française d’Oxford 2019 Photobook Conference :

The British, American and French Photobook:
Commitment, Memory, Materiality and the Art Market (1900-2019)

A conference to be held at the Maison Française, Oxford
Thursday 14 to Saturday 16 March 2019

This three-day conference is on the social history of the British, American or French photobook from 1900 to the present. Papers will address: commitment or explicit political engagement; memory, commemoration and the writing of history; materiality (whether real or virtual), and how material form affects circulation, handling, critical responses and the social life of the photobook. Contributors will analyse these topics with respect to the growth of the market for the photobook as a commodity and an object of bibliophilic attention.

This conference will concern itself with the social history of the photobook, whether photographer-driven, writer-driven, editor-driven, or publisher-driven. For the purposes of this conference, the definition of the photobook will be extended to include all photographically illustrated books, regardless of subject matter or the proportion of text to image, or indeed whether or not the images are “illustrative” in the strict sense of the word.

Three major questions arise concerning the photobook as a medium. Firstly, what place is there for literary fiction or imaginative picture-making in photobooks committed to documentary truth-telling or historical accuracy? In a word, how do fact and fiction, objectivity and subjectivity, cohere? Secondly, to what extent does the self-fashioning of the photographer in the art market interfere with the narrative meaning of a photobook? What is the influence of the art market on the photobook or on the writing of photobook histories? And how has the art market for photobooks changed since the bibliophilic creations of the early twentieth century? Thirdly, unlike individual prints that become unmoored without their captions, and which can be appropriated and re-used against themselves, can a photo-text shore itself up against appropriation? Is it a privileged pedagogical medium? A self-sufficient medium? This leads to a related question: how have certain photobooks changed with time? How have famous or reprinted photobooks been differently interpreted by different audiences? What has been the afterlife of politically committed photobooks? How, and in what circumstances, have certain photobooks contributed to writing or re-writing local memory or “collective memory”, at the time of their publication and over time?

To answer these questions, specialists in the history of photography, book studies and visual studies will dialogue with researchers in such disciplines as sociology, anthropology, critical race theory, queer theory, gender studies, post-colonial studies and comparative literature.

PROGRAMME

Thursday 14 March

9:00 a.m.                  coffee

9:30                           welcome by Frédéric Thibault-Starzyk (Director, MFO) and Paul Edwards (MFO)

Roundtable “American Photobooks as Feminist Self-Fashioning, 1970-1990” (90 mins)

10:00                         – Ellen HANDY (moderator) (City College of New York): “Autobiography, Critique and Place in the Photobook of the 1970s and 80s: Nancy Rexroth, Judy Fiskin and Barbara Rosenthal”

– Sophie JUNGE (University of Zurich/UCL/National University of Singapore): “’Performing Our History’: Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency

– Jessica McDONALD (Nancy Inman and Marlene Nathan Meyerson Curator of Photography, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin): “Wonder Woman and Other Fantasies: Joan Lyons and the Photo-Based Artist’s Book”

– Mary PANZER (moderator) (historian of photography, consultant and curator): “Mothers of Invention: Elsa Dorfman, Bea Nettles, Clarissa Sligh”

11:30                         discussion

12:00                         buffet lunch for conference speakers

Commitment and Visibility

14:00                         Taous R. DAHMANI (Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris 1): “No photobook, no auteur recognition? Thoughts on the reasons for and impact of the lack of photobooks by Black British photographers (1970s-1980s)”

14:30                         Stephanie KING (University College London): “Thinking through and with the Photobook: An Exercise in Mediation [Exit Photography Group’s Survival Programmes in Britain’s Inner Cities]”

15:00                         coffee break

The Photobook Market

15:30                         Moritz NEUMÜLLER (curator, Photobookweek Aarhus, Denmark, and photography department director, IED Madrid) and Daria TUMINAS (Unseen Amsterdam): “Market? What Market? A Participatory Research Approach to the Market for Photobooks”

16:00                         Briony CARLIN (Newcastle): “Theorizing the Photobook Encounter”

16:30                         end of the day

Friday 15 March

8:30 a.m.                  coffee

Roundtable “From News to History: Photographic Journeys from the Press to the Book” (90 mins)

9:00                            – Vanessa SCHWARTZ (moderator) (Visual Studies Research Institute, University of Southern California): “‘Creatures of Their Times’: Time-Life Books, The Series and Pictorial Excess”

– Nadya BAIR (Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Art): “Photobooks of the Nuba from George Rodger to Leni Riefenstahl”

– Norman DOMEIER (University of Stuttgart): “From the Secret Photo Deal between Associated Press (AP) and Nazi Germany to the post-1945 Photobooks on the Second World War: Bertold Brecht’s War Primer (1955) and Stefan Lorant’s Sieg Heil (1974)”

– Steven SAMOLS (University of Southern California): “Destination Palestine and the Zionist Photobook as History”

10:30                         discussion

11:00                         coffee break

11:30                         Jason HILL (Delaware): “Booked: Ordering Crime in and around Leonard Freed’s Police Work [1980]”

12:00                         Jessie BOND (London College of Communication): “The Significance of the Photobook in Susan Meiselas’ Nicaraguan Works”

12:30                         buffet lunch for conference speakers

Clandestine vs Institutional

13:30                         Vitor MARCELINO (University of São Paolo): “Experimental Confluence: Amazonia by Claudia Andujar and George Love”

14:00                         Karla McMANUS (Ryerson): “Romance Between Friends: Revisiting the National Film Board of Canada’s Photobook of the Canada-U.S. Borderline”

14:30                         Andy STAFFORD (Leeds): “Dead Time: The ‘Collectivist’ Photobook in the Prison Work of Mohamed Bourouissa”

15:00                         coffee break

Textbooks and Models

15:30                         Volker M. WELTER (UC Santa Barbara): “Photobooks and the Architectural Imagination of Southern California”

16:00                         Jadwiga KAMOLA (Berlin State Museums): “‘Reading Seeing’: The Mnemonic Power of Photographically Illustrated Medical and Art Historical and Technical Textbooks (1880-1960)”

16:30                         Peter HAMILTON (publisher, curator and photographer): “The Paradigmatic Photobook in Three Generational Modes”

17:00                         end of the day

Saturday 16 March

9:30                            coffee

Photoliterary and Phototypographical Photobooks

10:00                         Mark DURDEN (University of South Wales, Cardiff): “’Too much crude ore’: the Novels and ‘Photo-Texts’ of Wright Morris”

10:30                         Antony PENROSE (co-director of the Lee Miller Arches and The Penrose Collection): “The Road is Wider than Long by Roland Penrose”

11:00                         coffee break

11:30                         Caroline BLINDER (Goldsmiths): “An Unmade Book: Walker Evans’s 1970s Polaroids of Letters”

12:00                         finish