Photo-based Social Practice Broadsheet

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This is the four-page newspaper we created to share some of the driving questions and ideas with the audience during the panel discussion on socially engaged, transdisciplinary, and expanded practices in contemporary photography at Aperture Foundation in New York as part of the Open Engagement conference in May. Click on the title … Continue reading

TAKING PART: Participatory Artist In Residence programme

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Photofusion host four 90-day residencies for emerging participatory lens-based artists. Photofusion is a hub for photographers of all backgrounds in South London. Working in a diverse and challenging borough since 1992, Photofusion has a proud history of community engagement including work with local schools, young offenders, social housing associations and … Continue reading

“I also struggle with the term ‘participatory photography’ because it is such a broad term and there is so much bad practice. I am going to talk frankly: there is so much bad practice and so many do-good, damaging, crappy, boring projects. I feel like I can’t really speak in this conversation because we are using terms that I don’t think I understand or can define.”

 
– Eugenie Dolberg in a roundtable discussion between Ben Burbridge, Anthony Luvera, Matt Daw, Andrew Dewdney, and Noni Stacey for the Photoworks Annual Issue on Collaboration. “Round Table: Community Photography, Now and Then.” Photoworks Annual, no. 21 no. 21 (October 1, 2013): 126–49 (136).

If You Think You’re Giving Students of Color a Voice, Get Over Yourself

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“The idea of “giving” students voice, especially when it refers to students of color, only serves to reify the dynamic of paternalism that renders Black and Brown students voiceless until some salvific external force gifts them with the privilege to speak.” – Jamila Lyiscott   “If You Think You’re Giving … Continue reading

Photography and Collaboration

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“…thinking about photography in collaborative terms invites us to reconfigure assumptions about the photographic act in all its stages.”   Dr Daniel Palmer is a writer and Associate Professor in the Art Theory Program in the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture at Monash University. His research and professional practice focuses … Continue reading

Some Time Between Us

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Some Time Between Us is a project initiated by Emily Fitzgerald and the Hollywood Senior Center to bring together a group of 22 middle school students from Beaumont Middle School and older adults from the Hollywood Senior Center. Fitzgerald and the Hollywood Senior Center group previously worked on the project Being … Continue reading

And how must a photographer behave?

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This is a snippet from an amazing conversation between Anthony Luvera and Stefanie Braun in Critical Cities Volume 2; Ideas, knowledge and agitation from emerging urbanist   SB: The photographs in this project are taken by homeless or ex-homeless people. The creation of each ‘self-portrait’ is assisted by you, but … Continue reading

“Photographers seem ever more aware of the representational responsibilities which comes with their craft, but the question of who is actually doing this representing remains just as important as who is being represented and how. In a field like documentary photography this question becomes particularly essential, if only because it’s unrealistic to expect an adequate reflection of the world in all its messy complexity, when privileged, white, western men remain so often the ones taking the photographs and defining the terms of representation, dissemination, and so many other things.” – Lewis Bush.

 
This is a great discussion between Lewis Bush and Max Houghton on Disphotic, which is a blog on visual culture written by Bush. Although the conversation is specifically about women photographers in documentary photography, the sentiment of the quote above and the full commentary about tokenism vs. equitable representation are equally applicable to role of community co-authors in co-productive photographic projects. You can read the article in full here.

Another Kind of Girl

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  “No cheesy music to manipulate emotions. No images replicated a million times. Just a young curious mind producing some of the most powerful documentation of the Syrian refugee experience I’ve seen.” – Mark Strandquist   This simple, powerful film was made by Khaldiya,  a participant of the Another Kind of Girl … Continue reading

Women Of York: Shared Dining

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 This book ‘Women Of York: Shared Dining’ was made by Susan Meiselas (@s_meiselas1963) with women incarcerated at York Correctional Institution for Women. It’s a contemporary response to Judy Chicago’s famous feminist work ‘Dinner Party’ (which is permanently installed at the Brooklyn Museum). My first impressions were “This book is ugly with chintzy design, fonts in all different colours.” It was put together by the industry great Yolanda Cuomo Design, so what gives? Here’s what. Susan handed over total and collective decision-making to the women. The shape, the images, the text, the layout, the fonts, the sequencing and much more. Susan got out of the way entirely. This is their book. Susan, with others, just helped it along. It’s an amazing socially-engaged project. And I need to stop being such a snob.

In using people as a medium, participatory art has always had a double ontological status: it is both an event in the world, and at one removed from it. As such, it has the capacity to communicate on two levels—to participants and to spectators—the paradoxes that are repressed in everyday discourse, and to elicit perverse, disturbing, and pleasurable experiences that enlarge our capacity to imagine the world and our relations anew. But to reach the second level requires a mediating third term—an object, image, story, film, even a spectaclethat permits this experience to have a purchase on the public imaginary.[1] (my emphasis)


[1] Bishop, C., & Creative Time (2011, May). Participation and Spectacle: Where Are We Now? [Video file]. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/24193060

Feigned authenticity?

“The social, political and ameliorative objectives in historical social documentary photography are not dissimilar to some of the imperatives in ‘participatory’ art practice trends. These social and political aspects referred to relate to the desire to work with a social or political cause. The ameliorative has to do with the wish to correct a situation by drawing attention to it, making it visible, and the desire to ‘correct’ a situation, which, I have suggested, operates within a ‘liberal’ domain, representing a desire to ‘bring good and truth to the world’, to remediate and repair. Often, however, this operates at surface level only. In many instances it does not serve to break apart the mindsets and structures that create those situations. Strategies engaging participatory practice do not necessarily solve the photographic dilemma of finding ways to grant equal agency to both subject and photographer. In fact, these strategies often captivate the audience with a feigned authenticity, one that only serves to create another layer of ambiguity in the ‘truth factor’ of the photograph.”

 
– Natasha Christopher. “The whole truth, nothing but the truth: Photography and participatory practice.” In Wide Angle: Photography as Public Practice, edited by Terry Kurgan, 76-88 (88). Johannesburg: Fourthwall Books, 2015. iBook, e-book.

The Us and Them

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When I started working as a photojournalist in my 20s, I thought it was important to tell people about events that were happening outside of their society. Now I see that my main contribution is connecting people. A simple story about what is happening elsewhere will not change any situation. … Continue reading

LaToya Ruby Frazier

“My practice as an artist and the collaborative photographs disrupt the classist and elitist viewpoint that only the wealthy, educated or the privileged can report, research and write about economy, politics, history, working and living conditions. I believe the answers to making a more equitable and sustainable future in the rustbelt resides in the families and individuals that have endured the greatest hardship. The people of these regions that outside reporters, journalists, commentators and politicians continue to ignore should not wait for mass media to tell their story. It’s not a matter of vulnerability, it’s a matter of empowerment.”

 
Read more “Genius Grant” Photographer Uses Camera as Weapon Against Racism
 

New Ways of Photographing the New Masai

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 This essay by Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa looks at how some recent photobooks, featuring African subjects, rehash pejorative tropes. This article first appeared in Issue 17 of the Aperture Photography App. This extract is taken from the Aperture blog. Dutch photographer Jan Hoek’s New Ways of Photographing the New Masai (Art Paper Editions, 2014) has the appearance … Continue reading

Sara Terry & Mariam X

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I met Mariam (not her real name), an ex-child soldier, in Sierra Leone in June 2007, early in my work on “Forgiveness and Conflict.” Because Mariam’s privacy needed to be protected for legal reasons, I needed to find a way to tell her story without showing her face. She had … Continue reading

Sharing the Viewfinder

By mounting an iPhone over her viewfinder, Taylor-Lind was able to share the moments before and after photographing Talas, above, for "Maidan: Portraits from the Black Square" Anastasia Taylor-Lind

The Maidan videos were intended to be Instagram vignettes of my experiences as a photographer, an intimate look at how I see the world. They show how I saw the men of Maidan: 6cm x 6cm, through the camera’s frosted ground glass, their reflections reversed by the mirror, moving and … Continue reading

Wide Angle: Photography as Participatory Practice

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Wide Angle: Photography as Participatory Practice is a wide-ranging collection of essays in response to the subject of participatory photographic practice. Edited by Terry Kurgan and Tracy Murinik Published by Fourthwall Books ISBN 978-0-9922404-0-0 Acknowledging that the political and ethical status of photography is never uncomplicated terrain, contributors to this … Continue reading

The Dad Project

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“We’re not a photo family. None of us like having our pictures taken. This was pretty weird way to try changing that.” – Briony Campbell   Briony Campbell’s collaborative work with her dying father David, The Dad Project (2009), is great. I am excited about the way they made it together, and also the … Continue reading