Dr Gil Pasternak is Senior Research Fellow and Photographic History MA Programme Leader in the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) at De Montfort University (UK). The majority of Gil’s scholarly work draws on his past professional experience as fine art photographer, photography instructor and archivist, and war photojournalist. Aimed at expanding knowledge of histories and theories concerning non-professional, amateur, and popular photographic cultures, his published research investigates intersections of photographic practices with social, cultural and political realities. In addition to his work at PHRC, Gil is co-convener of Ph: Photography Research Network, and a member of the editorial advisory board for the journal Photography & Culture. In 2016-17 Gil worked as consultant for the BBC film Smile! The Nation’s Family Album, and he is currently finalising the Handbook of Photography Studies which consists of over 25 essays by leading photography scholars exploring current and historical engagements with photography across cultures, societies, professional environments, and academic disciplines.
Popular Photographic Cultures in Photography Studies
‘In the second decade of the twenty-first century, and for the first time in history, virtually all disciplines within the arts, humanities and social sciences have their own photography scholars. Historiographical at its core, this paper will survey the development of photographic scholarship from the mid twentieth century to the present day. In doing so, it will show how the study of photography has gradually moved from exclusive examinations of photographic visual content to investigations of the social and cultural work photographs do in public and intimate environments alike. Through analyses of influential studies, the paper will identify the origin of this transition in the prominent interest scholars took during the 1990s in popular practices of photographic production, uses and consumption. It will argue that following their engagement with popular photographic cultures, photographic scholarship of the last two decades recognises photographs as underrated research resources. Photography studies have consequently began considering their contribution to the elaboration of historical, cultural and social studies through explorations of the visual, material and affective significance of photographs within professional, creative, and other everyday frameworks. In the twenty-first century, the popularisation of photographic practice through the incorporation of cameras into smart technologies makes it more difficult to imagine what the personal and collective experience of everyday life could be without photography. This reality turns photographs into organising forces of everyday lived experience, further accelerating scholarly interest in photographic mass production, and cementing the status of photographs as dominant participants in popular culture as well as its active producers.