Tag, Jo Spence
5. Women and Work

It has often been claimed that the radical documentary practice of the 1970s attended to class politics to the exclusion of gender. This was one of the core arguments for a staged practice of photography. However, it is notable how much of the documentary production of the period was focussed on women’s labour. Victor Burgin’s UK76 includes a photograph of an Asian woman working in a textile factory and Photography Workshop and Jo Spence were centrally involved with the education of working-class women in east London. I’ll discuss the Hackney Flashers below. more

Published: 24.10.2017
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4. Production, Collectives and Skill

One pervasive theoretical problem running throughout the radical aesthetic work of the 1970s, and it is retained in much recent commentary, involves recoding Walter Benjamin’s “The Author as Producer” as a matter of attentive viewing or reading, with the avant-garde ‘text’ at its heart. However, in his important intervention Benjamin was concerned with turning readers into worker correspondents, that is to say, producers. The point of the “Author as Producer” was to reject the passive reception aesthetics of the Communist movement in favour of productivism. more

Published: 18.10.2017
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3. Survival Programmes: An Interlude on Varieties of Documentary

In my next post I will pick up the thread of neo-Brechtian practice, specifically looking at questions of production and skill in photography. However, here I want to look at some forms of critical or radical documentary that have been largely passed over in critical writing. It seems an apposite point to do so; in the last two weeks I’ve read two post-graduate studies on Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen’s work and been asked to referee an article on Half Moon and Camerawork for an academic journal. more

Published: 10.10.2017
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5. After Liberalism

One of the most idiosyncratic yet unrecognized trends of the 1970s is how it was precisely then, when the prewar documentary culture from the 1920s-30s began to appear in a new light. Besides the Walker Evans retrospective at MOMA in 1971, which I mentioned in the previous post, the decade started with a series of seminal monographs on the FSA and the 1930s documentary, including Jack Hurley’s Portrait of a Decade (1972), Roy Stryker and Nancy Wood’s In this Proud Land (1973), and William Stott’s Documentary Expression and Thirties America (1973). more

Published: 08.07.2014
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1. Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: A Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary Photography

Hello world!

This is my first blog. I’m not a blogging person and I confess I’m feeling uneasy about the vulnerable improvisatory condition that blog writing involves, a kind of performative public conversation open to doubts and suppositions and maybe to banality :)), rather than solid demonstrative writing. But, anyway: let’s try it.

This blog takes informally, maybe perversely, the title of Immanuel Wallerstein’s recently published fourth volume of his landmark book series on the modern world-system. I will attempt to bring to discussion some ideas and intuitions concerning the postwar reframing of documentary photography as a liberal humanistic (or humanitarian?) discipline. I’ll come back to definitions of humanism further below. more

Published: 01.06.2014
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