Gormley, Anna

Start date:
October 2016
Research Topic:
The democratic image A study of photography as collaboration for INGOs
Research Supervisor:
Stuart Allan
Supervising school:
School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

My research explores how new modes of collaborative photographic representation have the power to disentangle passed ethical and aesthetic criticisms that have haunted humanitarian photography since it’s inception. I am exploring how collaborative photography projects can be seen to create an arena for more responsive and responsible civic engagement. I am currently focusing on collaborative photography and INGOs. A collaborative project is defined here as one which consciously subverts the normative practice of photographer as sole author of the image and instead invite those that are the subject of the project to participate in the creation and dissemination of their image. Do these projects offer a potential pathway to a more informed and activated public?

Previous literature on photography and NGOs is scarce. A large proportion of humanitarian Photography theory still followed today centres around photography’s truth claims as a document focusing on the photographer as author (Susan Sontag, John Tag, Victor Burgin, Rosalind Krauss, Allan Sekula, Roland Barthes, John Berger, Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord and many more advancing work of Birmingham School of Cultural Studies.). Susan Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ being the best known of these, setting the critical ‘iconoclastic’ framework for which photography is widely judged upon. Today there is the rumbling of a new approach to photographic theory (Harriman and Lucaites, Ariella Azoulay, Fred Ritchin, David Campbell, Susie Linfield, David Levi-Strauss, Margaret Olin, W J T Mitchell to name but a few) have made very important steps towards reframing photography and its democratic potential in the digital age. My research aims to make a contribution to these discussions as it explores the opportunities for a once distant ‘other’ to respond, create and manipulate their representation through digital media.