Photography & Social Practice Workshop: Critical Questions and Resources


The Photography & Social Practice Workshop will provide a forum for the Open Engagement community to shape a large conversation that will aim to unfold through a book, a blog, an exhibition and a daylong event in conjunction with partners such as Aperture, the Magnum Foundation and OE 2018. The workshop will create a suite of products including lists of resources, questions, case studies and values. We will identify priorities, figure out who wants to participate in the larger event, and how different people and institutions would like to contribute.

Photo-based social practice artists deal with issues around justice and representation in particular ways that reference the history and conventions of photography. As three such practitioners, we have all benefitted from the dialogue coming out of the larger field of social practice, but also take great delight when a subset of that field, the people who work heavily with photographs, get together. To create an opportunity for those colleagues to connect, we are organizing a full day of events to precede OE 2018 in Queens, (to continue the conversation that Gemma, Eliza, Mark Strandquist, Pete Brook, and Wendy Ewald convened at Aperture during OE 2014) .

In order to make sure that the event reflects the needs and values of the OE community, we will run a workshop at OE 2017 to float the idea, create resource lists, identify the current questions people are wrestling with, invite participation, and begin to structure a volume of case studies that can accompany the mini-conference and become a teaching tool in both photographic and social practice contexts.

The day-long event idea, showcasing diverse methodologies for the use of photographs in socially engaged art, actually arose at OE 2016 when a group of colleagues sat down informally to connect. The feedback people gave about their experience at the conference led the group to propose a participatory structure for knowledge sharing and reflection. But since it’s also a more ambitious structure than a single conference event, it seems prudent to plan it for 2018, at which point we can also leverage our existing relationships with Aperture and Magnum, which will create a larger platform from which to influence the broader photographic community.

Discussions of photo-based social practice remain relatively small scale, and there are very few publications that apply the vocabulary, the strategies, the critiques and the canon of social practice to photographic practice. This is an excellent moment to embark on a volume of case studies, written by diverse practitioners like the 100 Questions project (orchestrated by Gemma-Rose Turnbull on behalf of OE), to both document and advance the field. This workshop will set it all in motion.

Gemma-Rose Turnbull, Eliza Gregory, and Anthony Luvera are colleagues in the field of socially engaged photographic practice. Originally from Australia, Gemma and Anthony developed the MA Collaboration and Photography at Coventry University (launching in January 2018), in the UK. Eliza is an American artist and educator based in San Francisco.

Photography & Social Practice Workshop: Critical Questions and Resources

April 22, 2017

12:00pm  –  1:30pm
UIC, Henry Hall 106


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