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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Mass-Participatory Photography and the Critically-Engaged Practitioner: Commissioning and Exhibiting Contemporary Photography.

Plouviez, Arabella and Mckay, Carol (2012) Mass-Participatory Photography and the Critically-Engaged Practitioner: Commissioning and Exhibiting Contemporary Photography. In: Association of Art Historians Conference 2012, 29 - 31 March 2012, Milton Keynes. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


The focus of this paper is on the increasing prevalence of user-generated photographic content in museums and exhibitions, and also the emphasis given to participatory practices in the commissioning of new photographic projects and art works. It is argued that these new commissioning and curatorial agendas impact on photographers in more complicated ways, perhaps, than on other forms of contemporary visual art practice. The participatory aspects of contemporary exhibition-making mean, for instance, that user-generated or ‘amateur’ photography can occupy the same cultural sphere as specially commissioned and/or curated photographic imagery. New relationships are established – spatial, institutional and conceptual – that potentially blur the boundaries between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’, artist and audience.
How have critically-engaged photographers responded to these changing curatorial and commissioning agendas, and what tensions emerge in the process? In developing new participatory modes of working, for instance, are photographers simply responding to specific funding priorities, or are there more complex and more creative strategies that can be unpicked? The examples cited in the paper sit variously within exhibition and commissioning contexts, and they suggest some of the diverse ways in which photographic practitioners are thinking about and engaging the ‘user-generated’ image and participatory processes in their work. They do this without rejecting completely the territories of the physical world, the book and the gallery, and without denouncing the authority of the role of producer/author, whilst still involving people in more complex relations with photography than simply as viewer/audience.
The paper was delivered at the Association of Art Historians Conference in March 2012.

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Depositing User: Arabella Plouviez


Item ID: 2869

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Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2012 15:57
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 15:34


Author: Arabella Plouviez
Author: Carol Mckay

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Art and Design


Fine Art > Art History
Photography > Photography

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