CfP: "The Book of the Future": Photobooks between Disciplines

Fiona Allen's picture
April 1, 2020 to April 3, 2020
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Fine Arts, Humanities, Literature, Cultural History / Studies

Call for Papers: AAH 2020, Newcastle University and Northumbria University

Session Convenors: Fiona Allen (University of Exeter), Simon Constantine (UCL) and Daniel Hartley (Durham University)

From self-published volumes to digital projects, the 21st century has witnessed a renewed interest in the photobook. Indeed, whilst the decision to combine text, photography and archival materials is a product of the 19th century, the term photobook is a somewhat more recent invention. This revival has also given rise to an increased scholarly and institutional interest in the topic – developments exemplified by Tate’s recent acquisition of Martin Parr’s photobook collection. In many respects, these events echo a claim made in a 1937 review of Margaret Bourke-White and Erskine Caldwell’s You Have Seen Their Faces: the volume embodied ‘what the book of the future will be like’ – that is, one in which the established hierarchy between text and image has been dissolved. What is less clear, however, is whether the term photobook indicates the realisation of this goal or, as David Campany has argued, an attempt to ‘impose unity where once there was none’.

Although the photobook has generated a substantial body of scholarship, the majority of this material has chosen to focus on its visual components. As such, this panel will explore the possibility of adopting a more interdisciplinary approach. How useful are literary analogies, such as the comparison between the photo sequence and the sentence, when engaging with this material? What type of methodological framework would do justice to the collaborations between photographers and writers that underpin these books? How does literary form affect, imitate or trouble photographic form, and vice versa? By pursuing these (and other) questions, we hope to stage a dialogue on the photobook that brings together scholars from art history, literary studies and other related disciplines.

Please email paper proposals to the session convenors, using the form on the Association for Art History's website. This should include a title and abstract (250 words maximum) for a 25-minute paper, your name and institutional affiliation (if any).

Deadline for submissions: Monday 21 October 2019

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