The Versatile Image: Photography in the Era of Web 2.0

Conference 24th - 26th June 2011

Photography, Film and Digital Imaging

Faculty of Arts, Design and Media


Keynote Speakers



Friday 24 June 2011, 17:30

Martin Lister

Emeritus Professor of Visual Culture, University of West of England (UK)

“Photography, Technology, Ecology”

Photographs now saturate the virtual world in a way that bears comparison with the ubiquity they accrued in the actual world across the 19th and 20th centuries. In this context, especially that of Web. 2.0, photography can be seen as part of an information society and economy. Popular and snapshot photography, in particular, can be understood as a forerunner of one of the Web 2.0’s key characteristics: ‘user generated content’. Photography was also the medium that flooded the world with images on an unprecedented scale and from its inception challenged society’s ability to classify, order, and manage their vast numbers.  Now, in their supercharged digital and networked form they may become a part of a surfeit, an instability and crisis of information; a digital dark age. In taking such a perspective we are alerted to a neglected history in which the distance between the computer and the camera is reduced. Finally, in our new media ecology, new kinds of everyday photographic practice and new relations between photographic and digital technology and the body may be emerging.

Martin Lister is Professor Emeritus of Visual Culture, University of West of England, Bristol. He published some of the earliest work on the relationship of photography to new media technologies including: The Photographic Image in Digital Culture (Routledge, 1995) and From Silver to Silicon: A CD-ROM about Photography, Technology and Culture (ARTEC, 1996). He has a particular interest in the place of photography within a new media ecology and recent work includes: “A Sack in the Sand: Photography and Information”, in Convergence: 13/3 (Sage, 2007) and the first and second editions (2003 and 2008) of New Media: A Critical Introduction (Routledge). He curated Images of Europe’for Heresies: an online world retrospective of Pedro Meyer’s photography (2008). He is an editor of the journal photographies (Routledge).



Saturday 25 June 2011, 10:00


David Bate

Reader in Photography, University of Westminster (UK)

“The Emancipating Machine”

Transformations in ‘new technology’ have many potentially significant cultural effects. These include the impact of informational lo-fi popular ‘shoot-and-share’ technologies on the distributive networks of photographic images across global populations, while the ‘hi-fi’ video of DSLR cameras offers a liberation of the photographer from stillness. The question of these emancipations in photography returns as a cultural question about what people do with these digital machine images, and what the capture, distribution and circulation of those images do to “us’’ people in our social spaces and psychical reality.

David Bate is a photographer and writer. His visual work is represented by Hoopers Gallery in London and his writings are widely circulated. His book Photography: Key Concepts (Berg, 2009) has just been published in Japanese by FilmArt in Osaka, Japan. Other recent publications include: Photography and Surrealism: Sexuality, Colonialism and Social Dissent(I.B.Tauris, 2004); “The Space of the Other” in Frontiers, ed. Elza Adamowitz (Peter Lang, 2006); “Surrealism, Communism and Photography” in Empire and Culture (Sage, 2004); “Fotografie und der koloniale Blick”, in Diskurse der Fotografie II, ed. Herta Wolf (Suhrkamp, 2003); “Voyeurism and Portraiture” in Geometry of the Face (National Museum of Photography, Denmark. 2004); “Art, Education, Photography”, The Photography Reader, ed. L. Wells (Routledge, 2004); and, “Indexiphilia”, Graphion (2006).



Saturday 25 June 2011, 17:30

Julian Stallabrass

Professor in Art History, Courtauld Institute of Art (UK)

“The Afterlife of Abu Ghraib”

The way in which the Abu Ghraib photographs and story were dealt with by the mainstream media in the UK and the US is familiar, and reflects the failure of the media to adequately interrogate the official stories relayed by government sources throughout the war. ‘Torture’ was swiftly reassigned as ‘abuse’, and a state policy on breaking the Geneva Convention was retold as the case of a few ‘bad apples’. While one or two of the images became ‘iconic’, these were chosen in part for the mildness of what was shown and their religious connotations, which fed into a ghastly subtext of redemption. The life of the photographs on the Web is quite different and far more diverse. The lecture will contrast the mass media treatment of the Abu Ghraib images with their afterlife on the Web in a wide variety of sites, using them for satire, entertainment, political propaganda, among other purposes. It will ask broader questions about state secrecy and the control of images, the decline of the established press, and the rise of fragmented online political communities.

Julian Stallabrass is a writer, curator, photographer and lecturer. He is Professor in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and is the author of Art Incorporated (Oxford University Press, 2004), Internet Art: The Online Clash Between Culture and Commerce (Tate Publishing, 2003), Paris Pictured (Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2002), High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s (Verso, 1999) and Gargantua: Manufactured Mass Culture (Verso, 1996). He is the co-editor of Ground Control: Technology and Utopia (Black Dog Publishing, 1997), Occupational Hazard: Critical Writing on Recent British Art (Black Dog Publishing, 1998), and Locus Solus: Technology, Identity and Site in Contemporary Art (Black Dog Publishing, 1999). He has written art criticism regularly for publications including Tate, Art Monthly and the New Statesman. He is an editorial board member of Art History, New Left Review and Third Text. He curated the 2008 Brighton Photo Biennial, Memory of Fire: Images of War and the War of Images.



Sunday 26 June 2011, 10:00


Mia Fineman

Assistant Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (USA)

“Phoning It In”

The first mobile phone cameras were developed in the early 1990s but it was not until a decade later that this technology became a ubiquitous part of everyday life. Last year there were more than five billion mobile-phone users worldwide, representing about three quarters of the world’s population. Most of these phones come with built-in cameras, making cell phone photography the most widespread form of image-making the world has ever known. Naturally, artists today are enormously intrigued by the aesthetic possibilities of the camera phone, in much the same way that previous generations were drawn to inexpensive plastic or toy cameras like the Diana, the Holga, the Russian Lomo, and the Polaroid SX-70. In fact, several of the most popular photo apps for the iPhone feature digital filters that mimic the lo-fi look of these film-based “crappy cameras”. This paper will examine the spontaneity, immediacy, and low-res rawness of camera phone photographs as an alternative to the slick hyperrealism of much recent large-scale color photography, and will look at how artists’ camera phone projects relate to broader cultural phenomena like citizen journalism, microblogging and social networking. Also addressed will be the ways artists have adapted (or failed to adapt) to new forms of publishing, display, and distribution. Among the works discussed will be three recent artists’ projects representing different approaches to what has come to be known as iPhoneography: Joel Sternfeld’s series of photographs, iDubai, Rob Pruitt’s book and exhibition iPruitt, and Chase Jarvis’s book, website, and iPhone app, The Best Camera is the One you Have with you.


Mia Fineman is Assistant Curator in the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since joining the Metropolitan in 1997, she has organised numerous exhibitions, including Other Pictures: Vernacular Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection (2000), On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag (2006), and Reality Check: Truth and Illusion in Contemporary Photography (2009). Her writing has appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, Slate, the Village Voice, Artnet, and McSweeney’s, and she has contributed essays to monographs on Walker Evans, Richard Avedon, Gabriel Orozco, Sean Scully, and others. She is currently at work on a major exhibition on the history of manipulated photography before Photoshop.