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 gpasternak@dmu.ac.uk


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 gpasternak@dmu.ac.uk


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 gpasternak@dmu.ac.uk

Gil Pasternak to examine history of family snaps for BBC documentary

From snapping with a smartphone to sharing on Facebook, photography is playing an unprecedented role in documenting and experiencing our lives.


This week, Dr Gil Pasternak, Senior Research Fellow in the Photographic History Research Centre, will be part of a BBC documentary film exploring what family photographs say about Britain’s post-war social history.

Smile! The Nation’s Family Album will tell the story of the family photo album, from the early days of Box Brownie photographs to modern stories being told via Instagram accounts.

Reflecting on his role in the production of the film, Gil explained: “A large portion of my research studies the social and cultural work family photographs have been made to do in various intimate and public environments in recent history.

“A BBC producer who was interested in asking similar questions about family photography in post-war Britain came across my work while researching for the film. In April 2016 he contacted me to discuss some initial ideas he had about the kinds of photographs and photographic trends that he wanted to explore.

“Following our conversation, the BBC appointed me as an academic consultant for the show. Since then until the film was ready to go on air I worked with various BBC researchers and producers to identify themes, other field specialists, and relevant scholarly materials.

“I gave them information about the ways in which issues concerning social class, gender identity, cultural background and technological advance affect the production, uses and perceived meanings of family photographs.”

Among the stories shared in the programme are the role of Kodak in creating an industry of popular photography, and the impact of the digital revolution.

It also looks at the way in which families used photo albums to share experiences and record memories, and, through a series of real-life stories, tells moving stories of how precious moments have been preserved.

Gil said: “The resulting film is structured around personal experiences of specific British families, each of which used a different type of camera to capture the majority of their family photographs at distinct moments in British history.

“These examples demonstrate how the development in photographic technology combined with local social history influenced the types of photographs they were able to capture, and therefore also the stories they were able to tell about themselves, their family and friends, their beliefs, interests, aspirations, and life in the UK more broadly.”

Speaking of the development of family photography in the digital era, Gil added: “Digital technologies give camera users more and more control over the production and postproduction of photographs by bringing the full photographic process home.

“The film covers this aspect through explorations of family photography in a reality in which photography has been plugged to the internet. It shows that as families find it gradually more and more challenging to get together in physical space, the incorporation of cameras into smart technologies assists in bringing the family together in virtual space.

“In the era of smart technologies, family photographs no longer merely function as memories of the past, but they instead become active participants in the formation of our present experiences and in shaping the dynamics of family life.”

Smile The Nation’s Family Album will be shown on BBC Four on the 16th of March 2017, at 9pm.


Cinema and Medicine in Revolutionary Russia

Medical Histories in Photography and Film

Tuesday, March 7, 2017| Clephan Building, room CL 2.29, 4-6pm

Open to all – just turn up!

Dr Anna Toropova (Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, University of Nottingham)


This talk will explore the psycho-physiological investigations of film viewers conducted by health professionals and psychologists in Soviet Russia during the 1920s and early 1930s. It will trace how the new forms of knowledge acquired in research institutes such as ‘the laboratory for the study of mass behaviour and psychology’ headed by the psychiatrist P. I. Karpov in Moscow gave rise to new models of spectatorship and new filmmaking practices. Bringing to light the dialogue forged between medicine, science and aesthetics in interwar Russia, the talk will seek to expand our understanding of the origins of Soviet cinema’s transition from avant-garde experimentation to Socialist Realism.


In case of queries contact Dr Beatriz Pichel beatriz.pichel@dmu.ac.uk

Full Bursary PhD Scholarship in Photographic History

The Legacy of Alfred Hugh Fisher and the Colonial Office Visual Instruction Committee (COVIC) / Photographic History


Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) in collaboration with the Royal Commonwealth Society department at Cambridge University Library (University of Cambridge).

See details here too http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AXP124/graduate-school-full-bursary-phd-scholarship-the-legacy-of-alfred-hugh-fisher-and-the-colonial-office-visual-instruction-committee/

A PhD research scholarship including stipend and tuition fee costs is offered within the Photographic History Research Centre in the School of Humanities at De Montfort University. It is available to UK or EU students who are suitably qualified and have outstanding potential as researchers.


PhD supervisor: Dr Gil Pasternak

PhD Commencing October 2017

In offering this scholarship the University aims to further develop its proven research strengths in the study of photographic histories, practices and cultures. It is an excellent opportunity for a candidate of exceptional promise to contribute to a stimulating, world-class research environment.

The Colonial Office Visual Instruction Committee (COVIC) was a body charged in 1902 with creating a visual record of Britain’s overseas territories for use in British schools. Cambridge University Library (CUL) maintains its photographic archives, and this project will focus on the Fisher Photograph Collection. Mainly comprising of photographs taken by artist and amateur photographer Alfred Hugh Fisher in 1907-1910, the collection documents changes to physical and sociocultural environments across the globe during the first decade of the twentieth century. A collaboration between the Photographic History Research Centre and Cambridge University Library, this project will explore the significance of visual records in cultural exchange, and how subsequent re-use of images from the Fisher Photograph Collection led to innovative understandings of ‘other’ cultures and lands.

For a more detailed description of the scholarship, the subject area at DMU and an application pack please visit http://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/graduate-school/phd-scholarships.aspx. For additional details you may also want to check this advertisement: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AXP124/graduate-school-full-bursary-phd-scholarship-the-legacy-of-alfred-hugh-fisher-and-the-colonial-office-visual-instruction-committee/.

Please direct academic queries to Dr Gil Pasternak on +44 (0)116 201 3951 or email gpasternak(at)dmu.ac.uk. For administrative queries contact the Graduate School office email: researchstudents@dmu.ac.uk, tel: 0116 250-6309.
Completed applications should be returned together with two supporting references and an academic transcript.

Applications are invited from UK or EU students with a Master’s degree or good first degree in a relevant subject (First, 2:1 or equivalent). Doctoral scholarships are available for up to three years full-time study commencing in October 2017 consisting of a bursary of £14,296 per annum in addition to waiver of tuition fees.

Please quote ref: ADHFB2

CLOSING DATE: Monday 10th April, 2017.

Interviews for shortlisted candidates will be held by Friday 28th April approximately.