CFP: ‘Rethinking Early Photography’, 16-17 June 2015, University of Lincoln

Call for papers – ‘Rethinking Early Photography’
16th-17th June 2015, University of Lincoln

Keynotes: Kate Flint, Lindsay Smith, Kelley Wilder

Attitudes to photography have undergone a radical shift in recent times. Partly in response to these contemporary changes, historians, curators and photographic practitioners have begun to re-examine older forms of photography: exploring the wide variety of historical technologies and techniques, finding surprising ways in which images were manipulated and determining how an ideology of photographic realism was maintained. Yet there remains a need for scholars to explore questions of early photographic ‘authorship’, singularity and objectivity in much greater detail.

Scholarly studies of nineteenth-century photography have been heavily influenced by later theoretical constructions. As an alternative, Daniel Novak has posited a ‘Victorian theory of photography’. Yet this theory remains unelaborated. Similarly, Elizabeth Edwards and others have called for a move away from the traditional Art History model of analysing photography. This interdisciplinary conference will explore the question of what such an analysis, and such a theory, might look like.

Possible questions and areas of interest for the conference include:

  • How do technological narratives influence our understanding of photography?
  • Photography as a business; photographers as workers.
  • The hegemony of nineteenth-century photographic realism, and resistances to it.
  • Can/should we do away with the Art History model of photography?
  • Alternatives to the photographer-as-author model of photographic exhibition and analysis.
  • To what extent can we think of photography as being separate to other print and visual media?
  • The role of photography in the creation of nineteenth-century celebrity.
  • Early photography as represented in literature, art and film.
  • Photographs as networks; photographs as objects.
  • When does ‘early’ photography end?
  • Does digital photography allow us to ‘read back’ the performativity of images from earlier periods? How might the revival of Victorian photographic techniques by current practitioners influence historians?

Organisers: Owen Clayton, Jim Cheshire, and Hannah Field.

To submit proposals for 20 minute papers, please send an abstract of 200-250 words to The deadline is 12th Jan 2015, 5pm (GMT).


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