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Dr Wiebke Leister

Course Leader - MA Photography
London College of Communication
Email address
Researcher Research
Wiebke  Leister


Wiebke Leister is a German artist and researcher. She is course leader for MA Photography at London College of Communication and has exhibited and published her work internationally. She is a co-organizer of the Photography and the Contemporary Imaginary research hub and the Writing Photographs research group, convener of the Theatre of Photography research network, a core member of the Photography and the Archive Research Centre and a UAL Teaching Scholar at University of the Arts London. She also taught fine art photography and the integration of theory and practice at Fachhochschule Bielefeld, Folkwang Universität der Künste in Essen, and at The Photographers' Gallery in London, and has worked in different museum contexts, organizing conferences and exhibitions. 2018-19 she will be DAAD Visiting Professor of Photography at Fachhochschule Bielefeld, Germany.

Wiebke's work challenges the limitations of photographic representation and individual likeness, often focusing on the human face as a canvas, a medium or an agent. Actively involving the viewer in the promises and failures of visual representation, her work engages with the interfacing of human boundaries and explores how we encounter ourselves in others. As an artist she works with photography, drawing and collage; her writing is in English and German and her written practice spans from academic papers and reviews to fiction, including text-based works for the gallery.

Her research Unjoyful Laughter and the Non-Likeness of Photographic Portraiture¹ (2000-06) questions the representational power of photography as a chance to rethink the photograph as a rather fleeting imago. The case study of laughter allowed her to look at the fleeting iconography of the open mouth, immobilized by the photographic process. The project ´Lovers, Liars and Laughter´ (2006-08) extended this earlier research interest in the mouth and the photographic portrayal of laughing and smiling, now looking at the rather invisible and unattainable features of love and kissing. Her current theory-practice project 'Echoes and Afterlives' (2016-) takes Japanese Noh theatre as a starting point to think about non-representational modes of photographic performance.

Grants and awards

(Figures indicate amount awarded to UAL)

  • Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, CAST- Noh theatre, death masks, life casts and photographic performance (Sasakawa), £1,600.00, (2018-2018)
  • The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Hoshi's Mask, £1,600.00, (2018-2018)

Research Outputs

Art/Design item

  • Carruthers B, Leister W. Writing Photographs (2017)


Conference, Symposium or Workshop item




Current research students

  • Bevan Bevan, Photographic Practice and the Place of Superposition: Status, Observation, Event (Lead supervisor)
  • Paul Bevan, Photography performed: what are the possibilities when photography becomes an act of its own investigation and does this embody the void between image and event. (Lead supervisor)
  • Maria Kheirkhah, Another Emerging: Re-constructing the Islamo-Orientalised Female Other in Contemporary Western Visual Culture. (Joint supervisor)
  • Ope Lori, The oppositional gaze: Contemporary image-making practice and the implications of skin colour ideals. (TrAIN) (Lead supervisor)
  • Sunduz Cemre Yesil, The photographic embodiment of an embrace: the mother-child constellation as a paradigm to explore the nature of the photographic double-portrait and how it manifests both the physical and mental relationship between self and other (Lead supervisor)

Past research students

  • Sukey Parnell, Hagging the Image – the role of photographic images in contemporary narratives of ageing and 'femininity' with Anglo American society. (Joint supervisor)