Séminaire : « Towards a Social History of Photoliterature and the Photobook » (Maison française d’Oxford, 2017-2018)

Seminar at the Maison Française d’Oxford 2017-2018 : « Towards a Social History of Photoliterature and the Photobook »


Programme du troisième trimestre :

La Maison Française d’Oxford accueille un séminaire sur la photolittérature et le photobook. Organisé par Paul Edwards (MFO/CNRS/LARCA), il se tient depuis octobre 2017 jusqu’à juin 2018. Le programme du troisième trimestre, ainsi que le rappel de l’argument du séminaire et des informations pratiques, sont retranscrits ci-dessous.

This international seminar brings together researchers working on photography and the book with interdisciplinary approaches, connecting the aesthetic and material dimensions of the photobook with social, economic and political perspectives.

Whilst the scope of the seminar encompasses general aspects of “photography and literature” — such as photographically illustrated fiction, writers’ portraits, the use of photographic activities, products or metaphors in writing — the primary theme of the seminar is the history and current state of the photobook. The aim is to encourage and disseminate research on its social history, its physical forms (including digital), its relations with the art market/bibliophile market, its networks of production, circulation, readership, as well as its engagement with race, whiteness, colonialism, gender and sexuality, and, where pertinent, its ethnographic methods.

Since the end of the economic model that allowed photojournalism to flourish in periodicals over the course of the twentieth century, photographers have increasingly resorted to alternative spaces, and most notably the book. Since the well-distributed publication of Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s The Photobook: A History (2004), interest in photographers’ books has increased dramatically at auction houses, and the question of “value” has become insistent and complex. Book studies, anthropology, sociology, comparative literature, history of art… different disciplines can help shed light on the social meanings of photobooks, hence the need for an interdisciplinary seminar.

The schedule of talks is fixed and published at the beginning of each term.


Seminar at the Maison Française d’Oxford 2017-2018

2-10 Norham Road, Oxford OX2 6SE

“Towards a Social History of Photoliterature and the Photobook”

Convened by Paul Edwards (MFO / CNRS / LARCA)

Wednesdays at 5:15 p.m. (tea is served at 5 p.m.)


Trinity term 2018

2 May at 3 p.m. :

  • Heidi Brevik-Zender (University of California, Riverside), “Jane Dieulafoy’s Persian photographs and her novel Parysatis (1890)”
  • Emilia Terracciano (Leverhulme Postdoctoral Research Fellow 2015-18, Ruskin School of Art), « Becoming Palm (2017): Botany and performance in the work of Simryn Gill” 

at 5:15 p.m. :

  • Benjamin Tree (De Montfort University), “International networks of the photo-book in the 1950s and early 60s”
  • Annebella Pollen (University of Brighton), “Evaluating photobooks: from ugly to beautiful”

23 May at 5:15 p.m. :

  • Michèle Mendelssohn (Mansfield College), “Napoléon Sarony’s literary portraits”
  • Peter Hamilton (GEMASS – Groupe d’Etude des Méthodes de l’Analyse Sociologique de la Sorbonne), “Photobooks and photographic paradigms: French humanist photography and its ‘locomotives litteraires’”

30 May at 5:15 p.m. :

  • Guillemette Crouzet (Warwick), “Finding the Bakhtiari. Isabella Bird’s photographic album and journey in Persia at the end of the nineteenth century” 

6 June at 5:15 p.m. : 

  • Miguel de Baca (History of Art, UO, and Lake Forest College, Illinois), “Albertine is gone: on pictures and intimacy in Tom Bianchi’s Fire Island Pines
  • Christopher Morton (Pitt Rivers Museum), “Photography and the anthropological monograph: The Nuer (1940)”

 13 June at 5:15 p.m. :

  • Laureline Meizel (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne), “Understanding the transmedial circulation of photographs: the illustrated book in the throes of colonial expansion, 1895-1901”
  • Kathrin Yacavone (Nottingham), “Barthes’s unfinished photo-book project Autobiographie en images

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