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UAL Photography Research Forum exhibition

Duncan Wooldridge, Monochrome Taboo, 2013. Partially erased postcard.
Written by
Sarah McLean
Published date
25 October 2016

Opening this November at Camberwell Space Projects, the inaugural exhibition of the newly formed UAL Photography Research Forum will bring together, for the first time, practice and research in photography from across University of the Arts London.

The work on display, from both practitioners and academics, will exemplify the experimental, critical and interdisciplinary thinking at work in photography at UAL, questioning the boundaries of the medium and the cultural and critical context of the image.

We spoke to Anne Williams, Programme Director for Photography in the School of Media at London College of Communication (LCC), one of the founders of the Research Forum, about the importance of working across colleges, and her thoughts on research as an exploratory process.

Please tell us about how the Photography Research Forum has come about.

The Photography Research Forum is a new initiative to capitalise on the strength of photography research across the university. It emerged out of a proposal I made for a UAL-wide photography research centre that can encompass the many and varied approaches to the medium by bringing its photography researchers together. While there is interesting research going on in the separate colleges, thus far there has been little interaction between them. The forum will provide a network for both new and established researchers, as well as research students, and an opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and explore opportunities for future initiatives.

How will the work of the research forum relate to the photography as it is taught at UAL?

Photography at UAL covers many aspects of contemporary practice and research, with different specialisms across the colleges. Photography at Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon and Central Saint Martins (CSM) is part of fine art programmes, while at LCC a broader approach is taken to photography across the arts and media, encompassing fine art, documentary and commercial practice, and London College of Fashion specialises in the fashion image. However, photography, possibly more than any other medium, is characterised by the inseparable nature of fine art and applied practices. The most exciting practice in all sectors is heavily influenced by the critical, conceptual and aesthetic thinking that underpins fine art, and leading photographers as well as artists see the gallery as a natural home for their work. Research in photography at UAL, whether practice-led or academic, has been at the leading edge of this trend in exploring, interrogating and developing the medium and its varied manifestations across culture, with a view to creating an innovative engagement with both. At the same time one of the aims of the forum would be to support and encourage the personal research and practice that is vital to effective and inspirational teaching.

Can you tell us about the artists whose work you have selected for the exhibition? How did you go about curating the show?

The exhibition is being co-ordinated by a small group of forum members including me, Duncan Wooldridge (Course leader, BA Photography, Camberwell College of Arts), David Moore of CSM and Harry Hardie of LCC. It is open to all photography researchers, whether established or emerging, and all submissions will be incorporated. We are interested in the plurality of research across UAL photography, the interplay of research and practice, and the similarities and differences between different areas of photography. It will include both practice-led and academic research, and will aim to illuminate the often uncertain and tentative process of research, with its many twists and turns en route from initial idea to final result.

Portrait of Anne Williams by Yuxi Tan.

Portrait of Anne Williams by Yuxi Tan.

Can you tell me a bit more about your own practice and research interests?

My main area of specialism is in the conceptual and interdisciplinary underpinnings of fine art photography practice. I also have an interest in expanded documentary practices and in the cultural implications of technological developments in photography.

What are your future plans for the Research Forum? Will there be other opportunities for students, staff and the public to engage with your work in the year to come?

The forum has already held a number of successful meetings and ‘pecha kucha’ research presentations, and a symposium entitled ‘Systems>Networks: Photography and the Legacy of Conceptual Art’. This exhibition is part of a programme of events that will continue across the year, including a conference planned for later in the year, and a series of keynote speakers across the colleges. One of the aims is to get students at all levels as well as staff to take part in events, thus to disseminate research thinking and practice throughout photography teaching. The Photography and the Contemporary Imaginary research hub at LCC has already initiated this by accompanying guest speakers with presentations from student speakers at undergraduate, postgraduate and research level. PhD students in particular tend to be somewhat isolated and a key aim would be to create a community of practice in which they can find support for their research beyond their supervisory team. Finally, thus far we have focused on specialist photography staff in order to establish the forum. However there are many researchers in other disciplines across the university with an interest in the photographic image, and ultimately we would like to invite any who are interested to join us.

The UAL Photography Research exhibition runs from 29 November – 16 December 2016 at Camberwell Space Projects. For more information, visit the event page.

Find out more about studying BA Photography at Camberwell on our course page.