Symposium November 2014


Photographic Histories of Psychology
One-day postgraduate symposium

25 November 2014, Trinity House
(building number 35 on the DMU campus-map)

L0022466 Case notes from Holloway Sanitorium

Registration now open
registration fee include sandwich lunch, tea and coffee

There are various products available, please make sure to register using the correct category:

* £0: This category is only for PHRC students and symposium speakers
* £10: This category is for De Montfort University students only
* £20: This category is for students of any other institution
* £26: This category is for non-students

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Photographic Histories of Psychology seeks to explore how photography and psychology have influenced each other throughout their histories. Its aim is twofold: to uncover how psychological notions have informed photographic practices, and to bring into light the historical role that photography has played in the making of psychological knowledge and its public dissemination.

The emergence of psychology as a scientific discipline and the popularization of photography occurred in parallel in the last third of the nineteenth century. Since then, photographs have been used in psychological experiments, and psychological theories of perception have been applied to understand the reception of photography. Whereas much research has been done on these topics, only sparse scholarly literature has attended to other aspects such as the role that photographic images played in the configuration of psychological and psychiatric thinking in the nineteenth century, and the ways in which psychological findings have penetrated into popular culture by means of photography.

Photographic Histories of Psychology will contribute to this scholarship by reflecting on how photographic materials have circulated through scientific and non-scientific contexts. It proposes to analyse the ways in which professional and amateur photography have historically appropriated, negotiated, rejected and disseminated psychological ideas. Rather than focusing on the notion of photographic representation or its meaning, we invite contributors to examine how, for example, psychological definitions of memory have affected the notion of the archive and the family album; how psychological theories on emotions have incited different gestures and expressions in front of the camera; or what role the illustrated press has played in the dissemination or depathologization of psychological disorders. Conversely, the event also seeks to examine how practices such as photographing, collecting photographs, or posing for the camera have penetrated into psychological discourses. How, for instance, particular uses of photography have inspired psychological research into historically specific patterns of behaviour.


KEYNOTE LECTURE: “Photography and the Landscape of the Child in Twentieth-Century Britain”

Dr Mathew Thomson is a Reader in the Department of History at the University of Warwick and a member of Warwick’s Centre for the History of Medicine. He completed a PhD on the emergence of concern about the ‘feeble-minded’ in Britain, and this was later published as The Problem of Mental Deficiency: Eugenics, Democracy and Social Policy in Britain, 1870-1959 (Oxford, 1998). His first academic appointment, supported by a Wellcome University Award was at the University of Sheffield from 1993-8. From there he moved to a post in modern British history at Warwick. Here he completed a study on the popularisation of psychological thought and practice in twentieth-century Britain, published as Psychological Subjects: Identity, Health and Culture in Twentieth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2006). Since then, he has published on Britain’s first psychoanalyst David Eder, he has undertaken research on the history of student health, and he has been involved in a collaborative project that has begun to chart a history of recent mental health care policy.

Dr. Thomson recently published a new book on fears about child well-being in post-war Britain: Lost Freedom: The Landscape of the Child and the British Post-War Settlement (Oxford, 2013). In his paper on ‘Photography and the Landscape of the Child in Twentieth-Century Britain’, Thomson will draw on this recent study to examine the influence on photography of the idea that the child saw the world in psychologically different way – that there was a ‘landscape of the child’. In particular, his paper will consider the way in which photography grappled with this challenge in its fascination with the figure of the street child, who would emerge as a central symbol in thinking about lost freedom in twentieth-century Britain.

For further information and questions, please contact Dr. Beatriz Pichel

Click here to register

Click here to view and download a copy of the day programme

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