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HomeCollaboration, participation and collective practices in contemporary photography in the UK and France

Collaboration, participation and collective practices in contemporary photography in the UK and France

Collaboration, participation et pratiques collectives dans la photographie contemporaine au Royaume-Uni et en France

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Published on Wednesday, October 09, 2019


The conference seeks to address collaboration and the spectrum of collective working methods which have defined and keep informing some of the independent practices in the field of photography in the 20th and 21st centuries. Our focus is on the UK and France, and seeks to envision case studies in a comparative approach.



Collaboration is increasingly recognized as one of the main drivers in contemporary practice, and today’s practitioners demonstrate an attention to the dynamics and politics of collaborative work. The rise and ubiquitous development of digital photography has certainly allowed new ways of envisioning collaborative photographic practices.[i] At the same time, funding streams require projects to develop outreach and think in terms of participation from the public.

Collaboration is an enduring focus in institutional and academic perspectives on photography. The articulation between photography and collaboration has been the central theme of conferences and exhibitions in the last 15 years (Fremantle Arts Centre, 1+1=3, Collaboration in Recent British portraiture 2006; Aperture and Magnum, Collaborative Images: New Models of Authorship and Aggregation, 2014, Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, Collaboration, A Potential History of Photography 2018). Academic research is consistently mining the implications of collaboration for photographic practice, considering it, like Daniel Palmer, as inherent to the production of photographic images[ii], as a form of “civil contract” according to Ariella Azoulay,[iii] or as a political stance as shown by Steve Edwards.[iv] Can we envision collaboration as an inescapable mode of production for photography, evidencing the evolution of artistic practices towards a “relational aesthetics” in the words of Nicolas Bourriaud?[v] Such issues drive postgraduate courses (MA Photography and Collaboration at Coventry; MA Art and Social Engagement in Bordeaux-Montaigne, MA Art and Social Practice at Middlesex University). Collaborative photographic practices are envisioned as part of processes of and strategies for social change or “tools for community development” as studied by Tiffany Fairey[vi], and such principles feed into contemporary practice.

The history of photography collectives, of collaborative initiatives in publishing and circulating images, in photographic education contexts and community photography projects, are deservedly given increasing recognition. The question of the legacy of past practices is crucial. Recovering these histories, thanks for example to the digitization of archives and/or their transfer to public institutions, is fundamental. What do these archives reveal about collaboration in photographic creation? What dialogues can emerge between past and present practices?

The idea is to both provide a focus on collaborative practice in contemporary photography, while exploring questions of legacies and memories of, but also evolutions and departures from earlier practices. How do these questions feed into practices in the present? What are the conditions of practice today for collaboration, and for collective organization and working methods? It has been argued that conditions of production, reception, distribution of photography have radically changed and that there can be no bridge between past and present practice, particularly when it comes to independent, oppositional, collective forms of photographic practice. That any attempt to do so would be nostalgic.[vii]

Nevertheless, we want to suggest that the notions of collaboration, the common, the collective, feed into contemporary photography, whether or not this is done in conscious relation to past practice.

The object of the conference is to explore case studies of practice which acknowledge the multiple interventions involved in image-making, which invite collective engagement as a defining framework in the creative process, and show a commitment to exploring and addressing the politics of representation. We also want to study the collective, in broad terms, as a pragmatic but also political and ethical framework of practice for professional photographers. We seek contributions on collectives as structures more or less guided by common objectives and working methods, on collective publications, and studies highlighting the growing role of crowd-funding in publishing photography books.

Proposals could address, but are not limited to, the following issues:

  • Photography collectives then and now
  • Photographic agencies
  • Participation or collaboration?
  • Community photography
  • Workers’ photography leagues
  • Archival and curatorial issues raised by collective practices
  • Collective forms of publishing
  • Crowdfunding: a form of collaboration?
  • Photography, public art and public display
  • Social media, digital networks transforming the distribution of images: is sharing collaborating? (Daniel Palmer).
  • Photography education and the challenge of collaboration

Submission guidelines

Proposals of approximately 300 words with a short biographical note should be sent

by November 15th 2019

to Karine Chambefort-Kay (Université Paris-Est Créteil) at chambefort@u-pec.fr and Mathilde Bertrand (Université Bordeaux-Montaigne) at mbertrand@u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr

We will notify participants of the decision of the scientific committee by the end of November.

Members of the scientific committee

  • Laurent Chatel, Université Lille III
  • Taous Dahmani, Université Panthéon Sorbonne
  • Mark Durden, Centre for European Documentary Research, University of South Wales
  • Steve Edwards, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Charlotte Gould, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle
  • Béatrice Laurent, Université Bordeaux Montaigne
  • Carla Mitchell, Four Corners Gallery, London
  • Corinne Nativel, Université Paris Est Créteil


[i] André Gunthert, L’image partagée, La photographie numérique. Paris, Textuel, 2015.

[ii] Daniel Palmer, Photography and Collaboration: From Conceptual Art to Crowdsourcing, London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.

[iii] Ariella Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography, New York, Zone Books, 2008.

[iv] Steve Edwards, 'The Fire Last Time: Documentary and Politics in 1970s Britain', 5 Blogposts for Fotomuseum Wintherthur, 7 September – 5 November, 2017.

[v] Nicolas Bourriaud, Esthétique relationnelle, Paris, Presses du réel, 1998.

[vi] Tiffaney Fairey, “These Photos Were My Life: understanding the impact of participatory photography projects”, Community Development Journal, Volume 53, Issue 4, October 2018, Pages 618–636.

[vii] Andrew Dewdney, “This was then, this is now; the legacy of Ten 8”, Photographies, Vol. 4, N°2, Sept 2011, p. 264.


  • Université Paris Est Créteil, 61 Avenue du Général de Gaulle
    Créteil, France (94)


  • Friday, November 15, 2019


  • photographie, collaboration, pratique collective, participation, représentation


  • Mathilde Bertrand
    courriel : mathilde [dot] bertrand [at] u-bordeaux-montaigne [dot] fr
  • Karine Chambefort-Kay
    courriel : chambefort [at] u-pec [dot] fr

Information source

  • Mathilde Bertrand
    courriel : mathilde [dot] bertrand [at] u-bordeaux-montaigne [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Collaboration, participation and collective practices in contemporary photography in the UK and France », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, October 09, 2019, https://calenda.org/681929

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