Diane Dammeyer Fellowship in Photographic Arts and Social Issues

The Diane Dammeyer Fellowship in Photographic Arts and Social Issues creates a space for a socially-engaged photographer to produce a compelling and dynamic body of work highlighting human rights and social issues.   Fereshteh Toosi, the 2015-16 Dammeyer Fellow, spent her year building relationships with the residents of Leland Apartments, … Continue reading

Round Table: Community Photography, Now and Then.

A round table discussion with several photographers discussing the theme of community photography from Photoworks Collaboration Issue. Topics address questions such as the definitions surrounding collaborative photography practices, an overview of several artistic traditions which have converged in contemporary community photography, and the dynamics between photographer artists and their audiences. … Continue reading

TAKING PART: Participatory Artist In Residence programme

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).

“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.

Women Of York: Shared Dining

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petebrook
 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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvXhgAmkvLs

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.

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
 

Wide Angle: Photography as Participatory Practice

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

MARK STRANDQUIST

“In his book, Bending the Frame, Fred Ritchin called for photographers to produce “visual reference points,” for ways forward not simply an index of past struggles. If we focus on the process, and bring to the forefront the social interactions that went into the photograph, as well as those that its exhibition inspires, we can begin to see how those reference points could be created. By championing and further investigating the social aesthetics of photography; by viewing the production of the image as a staging ground for interaction, and its exhibition as an equally exciting realm for dialogue, exchange, and community action; by seeing the socio-political potential behind every creative choice; then our images can begin to create those reference points, and can propose and realize new ways of seeing, understanding, and being within the world.

 

From the PHOTOGRAPHY AND SOCIAL PRACTICE broadsheet, May 2014.

Participatory Playbook: an Exhibition at LOOK3

This is reposted from the Magnum Foundation tumblr. –––––– We’re excited to share the opening of Tactics of Collaboration: A Participatory Playbook, an exhibition of an ongoing collaboration with Photography, Expanded Fellow Mark Strandquist at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative in Charlottesville, Virginia. This exhibition was held in conjunction with the 2015 LOOK3 Festival of the … Continue reading

Gemma-Rose Turnbull

“As documentary photographers integrate participatory and collaborative practices into their projects––inviting people who were previously ‘subjects’ to become co-creators––there is an increased tension between the process and the photographic product. When we move towards making work that is co-authored, how do we meet the needs of our collaborators (as the primary audience of the work), and communicate the primary experience to the secondary audience (anyone secondary to the people making the work)?

Basically, how can we continue to utilize the visceral, affective visual language of documentary photography to activate for social change, while democratising the process of creating those images with people, instead of of people?”

 

From the PHOTOGRAPHY AND SOCIAL PRACTICE broadsheet, May 2014.

Susan Meiselas

“This stategy evolved when I sensed that I couldn’t work with a single image, even with a series of images, as I had before. The complexities were not going to be seen through my images alone. I’m deeply interested in the photograph as a record of an encounter and enjoy putting myself in a timeline of image-makers, alongside other travellers, such anthropologists, colonists, missionaries, and even tourists. I do that to emphasize subjectivity, rather than privilege any single perspective – I see myself as only one of many storytellers.”

 
Meiselas, S. in Bright, S. (2011), “Encounters with the Dani: Stories from the Baliem Valley,” Art Photography Now, pp 168

ASSEMBLY – Anthony Luvera

First Base Day Centre from Assembly by Anthony Luvera, 2013-2014   ASSEMBLY is an exhibition of work created over a twelve-month period by Anthony Luvera with people who have experienced homelessness living in Brighton.   As part of Assembly, Luvera invited individuals associated with First Base Day Centre and Phase One Project to use … Continue reading

The Photographer’s Playbook

307 Assignments and Ideas Edited by Jason Fulford and Gregory Halpern The cover is BUMPY. And it’s a cool project. Assignments by many of Photography as a Social Practice friends in here, including Mark Menjivar, Nolan Calisch, Harrell Fletcher and Susan Meiselas (as well as John Baldessari, Tina Barney, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Jim Goldberg, Miranda July, … Continue reading

Eliza Gregory

“My personal life can be intertwined with my work in a positive way; relationships can provide the foundation of an image and a project, as well as a life. As I’ve grown into this understanding of myself and my work, I’ve moved from being focused on an image to being focused on a neighborhood. I’ve become a wife and a mother. I’ve seen how photography can create social change, and it isn’t through the pictures, it’s through the process of making art.”

 

From the PHOTOGRAPHY AND SOCIAL PRACTICE broadsheet, May 2014.

PROVE IT TO ME

    PROVE IT TO ME, curated by Natasha Marie Llorens, is a group show featuring the work of Shane Aslan Selzer, Stephanie Diamond, Dillon de Give, Mark Menjivar, Maria D. Rapicavoli, Julia Sherman, and Mary Walling Blackburn. These seven artists, loosely defined as making social practice artwork, refuse an objective understanding of photography. Instead, they create projects that … Continue reading

Pete Brook

“We don’t have to be making photographs to be making a difference. In fact, of the many photo-centric acts that increase engagement with—and understanding between—fellow humans, image-making is only one. Researching, collating, preserving, reframing, holding and talking about images form the context for photography in our world. Making an image is only the opening gambit; when an image-maker freezes a moment or place in time within a photo, he or she merely guarantees a long thaw of meanings and associations running from it. How we discuss, use and consume photography shapes the thaw. Andrea Stultiens’ ‘History In Progress Uganda’; Susan Meiselas’ ‘Kurdistan’; and Alyse Emdur’s ‘Prison Landscapes’ are just a few of the many photo-based projects with methodologies from which we can learn.”

 
From the PHOTOGRAPHY AND SOCIAL PRACTICE broadsheet, May 2014.

Windows Without Prison Bars

 “If you could have a window in your cell, what place from your past would it look out to?”      Mark Strandquist’s work “Windows from Prison” is featured on The New York Times Lens blog today. The article written by Rena Silverman features accounts and stories from participants (both current and ex-prisoners). … Continue reading

Open Society Documentary Photography Grant Program

  The Open Society Documentary Photography Project is soliciting calls for the 2014 Audience Engagement Grant Program. Since the program’s inception in 2004, they have funded 54 photographers who have gone beyond documenting a human rights or social justice issue to enacting change. It would be a great grant for … Continue reading

Wendy Ewald

“When I first started making photographs, I was fascinated by documentary efforts to catalogue social and economic problems of the 1930s and the occasional successes of social reforms. With time I learned to back off from the world and let it reveal itself to me, and as I did, each project became a distinct challenge to see beneath surface relationships. As the work progressed and I became more conscious of my method, I was able to experiment with ways of sharing control over the image-making. The active dialogue between the photographer and the subject (and inevitably the viewer) became for me the essential point of a photograph. Beyond esthetic choices, I came to see photography as a language to which everyone has access.”

 
From the PHOTOGRAPHY AND SOCIAL PRACTICE broadsheet, May 2014.