Clothing, fashion and nation building in the ‘Land of Israel’

How does clothing become fashion? To what extent does a consensual mode of dress emerge within a heterogeneous migrant society? How can clothing become political and to what extent can it express power relations? And which role does visual culture and photography play in communicating and enforcing changing clothing ideals?

These questions lie at the core of Dr Svenja Bethke’s research project Clothing, fashion and nation building in the ‘Land of Israel’, that has been awarded a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship by the European Commission. During the period of the fellowiship Dr Bethke will be hosted at the Hebrew University (Jerusalem), the Yad Ben Zvi Institute (Jerusalem) and also in the PHRC at De Montfort University, where Dr Bethke will work closely with Senior Research Fellow in Photographic History Dr Gil Pasternak.

Taking the ‘Land of Israel’ as a case study, Dr Bethke argues that investigating clothing, fashion and aesthetic perceptions brings to the fore the agency of migrant groups and adds a personal dimension to the history of nation building. Focusing on the period from the 1880s, when large-scale migration began, until the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948, Dr Bethke will investigate how Eastern European and German Jewish immigrants expressed social, cultural and political belonging through clothing and to what extent they were able to enforce their ideologies in the course of nation building. Dr Bethke ask to what extent the immigrants influenced each other in developing a specific mode of dress, and how they referenced the socio-cultural and political practices of their countries of origin, as well as the clothing of Arab people and the Ottoman and British occupying authorities.

With an unprecedented focus on gender and visual materials, Dr Bethke will draw from collections preserved by 15 archives in Israel, Poland and England, and 6 Israeli, German, American and Russian databases. The project will analyse private and public photographs and posters, and contextualise them against an assessment of written material and oral history interviews.

The three months of secondment at the PHRC under the supervision of Dr Gil Pasternak will enhance Dr Bethke’s methodological skills in the analysis of historical photographs. Through this highly interdisciplinary training, Dr Bethke aims to develop a new methodology that will integrate approaches from fashion history and visual culture into the history of nation building to shed light on the processes of negotiation and power struggles on the micro level of a community.

In times of mass migration, economic exploitation and global mobility, the project will contribute to an understanding of aesthetic perceptions, dress and beauty ideals as an expression of power, integration and exclusion.



Clephan Building, room CL2.02b,  5.00-6.30pm

Open to all – just turn up!

This week we present 2 papers by PHRC doctoral students


First paper: Erika Lederman


Women Photographers, Institutional Practices and the South Kensington Museum

PH.113A-1891; 666-1890, Photograph. Carved walnut wood frame with glass mirror; Photograph by Isabel Agnes Cowper (1826-1911). Carved walnut wood frame with glass mirror, Italian, 16th century, albumen print, ca. 1891. South Kensington Museum 1890-1891.

This seminar paper will locate the career of 19th century institutional photographer Isabel Agnes Cowper within the history of the photography and the institutional history of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum).  It will present the biographical details I have uncovered to date, and will identify other 19th century female professional photographers from whom the SKM acquired photographs.  It will examine the challenges involved in identifying and researching material culture produced by women and will suggest a multidisciplinary research approach that acknowledges the multiple strands of photography’s history.


Second paper: Catherine Troiano


Future of the Past: Commemorating 150 years of photography in Hungary, 1989

In 1989, exhibitions of photography were staged around the world to mark 150 years since the announcement of the medium. In Hungary, the commemorations comprised twelve exhibitions staged in Budapest and collectively titled ‘the month of photography’. These events came at a poignant moment culturally, socially and politically. This paper aims to use the anniversary celebrations as a case study through which to understand photography’s place and purpose in Hungary’s broader socio-cultural landscape. It interprets the 1989 events as a lens into the Communist past and a forebear of the Democratic future, exploring how photography was posited within the framework of this political change.


Visualising Reproduction

Attendance to this event is free, but booking is necessary. To book a place, please email


9.30 Registration & coffee

9.50 Welcome

10.00 Keynote lecture: Nick Hopwood (University of Cambridge)

“Visualising Human Embryos”

11.00 Coffee break


Session 1

11.15 Camilla Røstvik (University of St Andrews)

“‘The Painter’s Are In’ – Menstruation in the Visual Arts since 1970”

11.45 Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (University of Cambridge) and Liv Pennington (artist)

“Visualising Pregnancy Tests in Art and Entertainment”

12.15 Kate Reed (University of Sheffield)

“Visualising ‘Life’ and ‘Loss’ in Medicine and Art: the Case of Fetal and Neonatal Post-mortem”

12.45 Discussion

13.00 Lunch


Session 2

13.45 Isabel Davis (Birkbeck, University of London) and Anna Burel (artist)

“Seeing and the Unseen in the Experimental Conception Hospital”

14.15 Katie Coveney and Nicky Hudson (DMU)

“Visualising Reproductive Donation Online. An Analysis of Fertility Clinic Websites in the UK, Belgium and Spain”

14.45 Manuela Perrotta (Queen Mary University of London)

“Remaking Embryos. Time-lapse Microscopy and the Future of Embryology”

15.15 Discussion

15.30 Coffee break


Session 3

15.45 Kristine Fearon (DMU)

“‘Have You Ever Talked to Any Women with Turner Syndrome?’ A Rationale For The Use of Photo-Elicitation Interviews in Research on Reproductive Decision Making with Women with Mild Cognitive Impairment”

16.15 Tove Dalenius (DMU)

“Beyond 3D Printing: Holographic Visualisation of the Clitoris”


16.45 Concluding remarks & wine reception


Follow @VisReprodDMU for updates. For more information you may also email Dr Beatriz Pichel or Prof Nicky Hudson


Clephan Building, room CL2.02b, Mondays 5.00-6.30pm

Open to all – just turn up!

February 5, 2018| Professor Michelle Henning (University of West London)

Ilford Photographic Manufacturers: Industry, Innovation and Sensory Experience

James Jarché, Coating glass plates at the Ilford factory, 1933. Daily Herald Archive

This presentation outlines my new research project, which will investigate practices of technical innovation in the work of the Ilford Ltd. Photographic company and early colour photography enterprises during WWI and in the interwar period. Innovations include the introduction of daylight loading roll film and Ilford Special Rapid Panchromatic Plates (1915), the introduction of HP and infra-red films in the early 1930s, the introduction of colour film processes such as Dufaycolor and the early development of multigrade paper in 1939. Also circa 1928 a number of colour photography companies were floated on the stock market, as part of the boom in financial speculation. The Colour Snaps company collaborated with Ilford in 1928-30, although Boots the Chemists  expressed concern about the quality and viability of its process, and the company soon folded.

My research asks how industry archives might provide a source for a materialist history which is concerned not only with empirical description and analysis but with more elusive questions of a changing aesthetic and sensory “economy” in Britain during this period. My first step is to track technical, especially chemical, innovations and gain a sense of their impact on photographic practice across diverse fields. How did these address specific problems or needs such as those arising from war, economic changes, or new business and retail practices? The next step is more difficult: I want to ask how did these feed into the ongoing process by which technical images were being integrated into larger everyday experiences? This involves understanding photography not simply as a prosthetic means for extending human vision, but as something which transforms experience, understanding, sensory engagement with the world, habit and behaviour.  For this paper, I will discuss some aspects of the archive, aspects of existing studies of photographic companies (Kodak, Corbis, Polaroid and others) and outline some of the key theoretical approaches that might help us unpick the question of transformation of sensory experience.

Michelle Henning is a writer and artist, and is Professor of Photography and Cultural History at the University of West London. She writes on photography, modernism, new media, and museums. Her latest book is Photography: The Unfettered Image (forthcoming Routledge, 2018).



Clephan Building, room CL0.17, Monday 5.30-7pm

Open to all – just turn up!

This week, two presentations:

5.30-6.15 pm| Leigh Gleason (PhD student, PHRC)

Creating Photographic Desire: Keystone View Company and Emotional Consumerism

A Keystone salesman at work

Keystone View Company, an American stereoscopic publisher founded in 1892, approached photographic sales differently from other photographic companies, because it dispatched a fleet of sales agents to sell photographs door-to-door. Utilizing a two-step canvass-and-delivery process, where a sales agent canvassed to receive a purchase commitment and returned a week later to deliver the stereographs and collect payment, Keystone’s agents faced two opportunities to make (or lose) their sales. To aid in agents’ success, Keystone produced sales manuals that guided agents and advised them in ways to “create a desire” for stereographs. The company’s texts provide insight into its notion of what made its photographs appealing to consumers, and why it felt stereography remained relevant at the edge of the twentieth century. This talk will examine Keystone’s staging of “creat[ing] a desire” for photographs, and consider the role of emotion in the purchase of non-personal photographic images.

6.15-7.00 pm| Marta Binazzi (PhD student, PHRC)

The Italian State Photographer: The Complex Relationship between Copyright Law, Photographs of Artworks and Museum Regulations, 1890s-1900s

In 1904, the Italian Ministry of Public Instruction issued a decree establishing that every photographer had to pay a tax and to provide one negative of each photograph taken inside public museums. Photographic companies’ reaction was almost immediate. Alinari, Brogi and Anderson stopped their activities in the Uffizi; they would not have allowed the State to become a competitor in the market of photographs of artworks. By considering the Alinari’s activities in the Uffizi and investigating how the right of author’s law and museum regulations affected their business, this paper analyses the complex relationship between copyright laws, photographs of artworks and public museum regulations. This case study resonates with current laws toward photographs of artworks, digitisation projects and museums policies, divided between granting access and capitalise their collections, prompting questions about the challenges that photographs of artworks posed and pose to the legislative system.


In case of queries contact Dr Gil Pasternak


Clephan Building, room CL0.17, Mondays 5.30-7pm

Open to all – just turn up!

November 6, 2017| Professor Nina Lager Vestberg (NTNU: Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Analogue Ancestors and Digital Descendants: On Genealogy and the Archival Cultures of Photography

Portrait of unknown man and woman, 1839-1860, ambrotype, form the collection of Gunnerusbiblioteket, NTNU, CC-BY-SA

This presentation addresses genealogy as an epistemological trope in the archival cultures of photography, using case studies both from the historiography of photography and from contemporary digital culture. Some of the classic writings on photography abound with genealogical metaphors and impulses, from Walter Benjamin observing that all nineteenth-century portraits seem to carry a ’family resemblance’ to Roland Barthes recognising photography’s noeme in an image of his own mother. Similarly, online archives and image resources are steeped in the logic of genealogy, from the ’parent directories’ and ’child pages’ that organise content at file level, to content-based search algorithms, like Google Image Search, which retrieve and sort digital image files based on machine-recognisable visual – ’family’– resemblance. Outlining a current research project on online museum collections, which explores how photographic images insert themselves between museum objects and the digital user interface, the presentation invites discussion of how originals beget reproductions, and surrogates perform reproductive services, in the increasingly multi-layered and large-scale image collections that constitute the online avatars of museums and archives.

In case of queries contact Dr Gil Pasternak


Clephan Building, room CL0.17, Mondays 5.30-7pm

Open to all – just turn up!

October 9, 2017| Dr Annebella Pollen (University of Brighton)

Family Photography Unlimited?

Boorman Family Photography Collection, 1991-2. Courtesy of Trustees of the Mass Observation Archive

The massive expansion in digital photography over the last two decades appears to have lifted barriers to family photography’s subjects, styles and scale. Once curtailed by the expense of film and processing, twenty-first century photographers are now able to picture themselves without apparent material restrictions, compared to their late twentieth century analogue forbears who averaged a mere two or three films per year. As a challenge to some of these narratives, this presentation examines a unique family photography project of 1991-2, where all members of a so-called ‘ordinary’ English family were provided with unlimited film and free processing by Daily Telegraph magazine. The resulting images – around 20,000 – offer an interesting prehistory for contemporary large-scale family photography practice but also reveal a distinctive set of limitations. Addressing the project’s aims, effects, results and afterlife, Annebella’s work-in-progress talk will examine the competing expectations made of the photographs, and also discuss how they fit into the narrative of her developing book manuscript, provisionally entitled The Image at Large.

In case of queries contact Dr Gil Pasternak