Kings Cross poster 03b

Following last year’s success of Engaging in Urban Image-making, we organised another event this year to continue the dialogue about image making practices.  Once again we were hosted and generously funded by the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) which enabled us to provide lunch for our speakers and volunteers and free entry, tea/coffee and wine for our attendees. The Graduate School Fund helped us with printing costs for posters and programmes, and the Urban Photographers Association ensured we had visibility on social media. Feeling the pressure of wanting to live up to the success of the first event, we decided to change the format slightly to have a keynote speaker and themed panels.

After introductions by ourselves and Dr Les Back, (Director of CUCR and Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths), Dr Paul Lowe, Reader in Documentary Photography and course leader of the MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at LCC, gave a fascinating talk about The Forensic Turn and the thingness of the photograph, with the Q&A chaired by Paul Halliday, Course Leader of the MA Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths. Paul Lowe talked about the problematic nature of images of atrocity, and how images that do not depict actual and visible violence but instead the material presence of the spaces and objects involved in such acts can lead the viewer into an imaginative engagement with the nature of atrocity.

Our panel about community featured photographers and film-makers that work with the communities they live(d) with: Tom Hunter (Professor of Photography at LCC), a housing campaigner and former squatter in Hackney, told the story of how he became a community activist and documentary maker in the urban environment. Nirmal Puwar (Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths) talked about how the cinema became a social space for South Asian workers in the British post-war period in Coventry, showing her wonderful film Coventry Ritz. Finally, Anita Strasser (PhD researcher at Goldsmiths) talked about how she utilised participatory photographic research practice to create social interaction among her neighbours living in Deptford. The panel discussion was chaired by Laura Cuch who presented her project Spiritual Flavours at the same conference last year.

The final panel which took place after the tea break focused on urban landscapes, often taking a fine-art approach to narrate the experience of being in urban-rural spaces. Tanya Houghton’s work (UPA member) was an exploration of the urban-rural spaces along London’s Marshland, where she collected discarded items and flora to be reworked into sculptural still lives to show the traces of human interaction within these spaces. Anthony Palmer (UPA member) took us along the Leaway, a previously industrialised landscape that is undergoing rapid changes, paying attention to all senses to depict ‘the spirit of place’. Finally, Jennifer Roberts (London Independent Photography) gave a very insightful talk about the connection between her work as a therapist, a jazz singer and photographic practitioner in her work. The Q&A was chaired by Gill Golding, an urban landscape photographer and organiser/tutor on the International Urban Photography Summer School (iUPSS) which is held at Goldsmiths.


The day finished with wine, further conversations, and most importantly, the repeatedly positive feedback and expression of interest in more such events. The auditorium was packed-out for pretty much the whole day, not always the with the same people but some could only stay for the first half and others only for the second half. It was said that what sets this conference apart from other events on urban photography is the fact that it is organised by women, thus feeling more personal and intimate, and more balanced in a normally male-dominated field. The gender balance in the panels was also noticed and appreciated, and many commented on the positive vibe and buzz in the room. We will try our best to secure funding again for another event in 2019. Ideas are already flowing.



Engaging in Urban Image-making

was a one-day symposium hosted by the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) at Goldsmiths, April 28th 2017. It was organised by Anita Strasser (PhD candidate Visual Sociology) and Gill Golding (Board member of the International Visual Sociology Association) and generously supported by Graduate School Fund, CUCR, OpenVizor and Urban Photographers Association. It brought together practitioners from 4 different organisations: Sociology Goldsmiths, Photojournalism London College of Communication, Urban Photographers Association and London Independent Photography. Its purpose was to begin a cross-organisational dialogue about how we engage with urban life in our image-making practices in the 21st century.

After introductions by Caroline Knowles, Gill Golding and Anita Strasser, providing an overview of the history and importance of CUCR and the symposium, we started with Paul Halliday’s Democracy Wall: On The Politics of Silence and Palatable Dissent, where he was drawing on his own experiences of making images in street contexts and what it means to construct images that speak to and of the politics of contested urban spaces. Despite the fire alarm going off unexpectedly, we managed to stay on track with Emma Jackson’s short documentary film about Rowans’ bowling league, a collaboration between her, a sociologist, and film-maker Andy Lee. Bowling Together? Portrait of a League explores themes of bowling as a practice of belonging in the city, that is both highly performative and social. The panel discussion was chaired by Caroline Knowles.

After a short break with coffee and tea in the King’s Way Corridor, we continued with Jennifer Good and Lewis Bush, both lecturers in Photojournalism at the London College of Communication. Jennifer’s evocative presentation 9/11: Street photography and terror drew on Freud and the Uncanny to consider how the architecture of New York City was transformed both physically and symbolically by terror during the events of 9/11. It considered how the mode of witnessing that is at the heart of street photography took on a different character under the conditions of trauma. This was followed by Lewis Bush’s Metropolis Now, which records the transformation of London into an ‘investment opportunity’. Now a city of demolition, cranes, and glittering new high rises, the double exposures also record the experience of feeling increasingly alienated from a city which was once home. The panel discussion was chaired by Paul Halliday.

After lunch, we introduced two speakers from the Urban Photographers Association. Laura Cuch talked about Spiritual Flavours, a collaborative arts project with members of different faith communities. This project is part of Laura’s practice-led PhD, where she uses photography and film to comparatively explore the relationship between home and religion, by paying attention to domestic material culture, in particular that which is related to food, cooking and eating. Staying with the theme of tradition, Stefano Carnelli’s Transumanza follows the seasonal journey of the last walking shepherds in Northern Italy, which, despite generations of custom, requires continuous adaptation due to changes in the landscape. It also shows a scenario in flux, where the meat market directed towards the growing Muslim community has replaced the wool economy, representing a clash between Local and Global, tradition and innovation. The panel discussion was chaired by Anita Strasser.

The last panel introduced speakers from London Independent Photography. Mo Greig’s presentation offered a heart-felt account about the human story behind the media frenzy and political rhetoric of Romanian nationals that were going to enter the UK after EU labour restrictions were lifted in 2014. The vilification of Romanians and their country motivated Mo to explore Romanian life in Romania in and outside the UK and found the rhetoric completely untrue. Finally, Jonathan Goldberg ended the presentations with The Runway Stops Here, documenting the community living in a former plant nursery, known as Grow Heathrow, just across the perimeter fence from Heathrow airport. It is a complex eco-village, which was founded as a direct protest against airport expansion and climate change, and manages to survive living almost entirely off-grid. The panel discussion was chaired by Gill Golding.

Finally, before the wine reception, Abbas Nokhasteh screened the film PARIS 19 – SURVIVAL:  Andrés Borda-González, David Kendall, Abbas Nokhasteh, Dr. Moustafa Traoré, OpenVizor, 2011 (PARIS 19: MOBILITY, MEMORY & MIGRATION: The film is a project bringing together the practice of photography with personal and collective memories from the 19th district of Paris, realised in four films: Faith, Survival, Connection, Distance.

Abbas Nokhasteh

We would like to thank all our presenters and sponsors (and our volunteer Laura Henneke) for a very successful symposium. It was a fully-booked and packed out event with very diverse, insightful and thought-provoking presentations and discussions that addressed how image making can support our understanding of some of the complexities associated with contemporary urban life. Due to the success of the event, we hope to make this into an annual event. For more information, please click:

Anita Strasser and Gill Golding


Photos: Urban Photographers’ Association (UPA) © 2017  

Join us for our one day symposium

Join us for our one day symposium, Engaging in Urban Image Making, on Friday, 28 April 2017 at Goldsmiths, University of London, RHB 137a.

The symposium is a collaboration between Goldsmiths, University of London, London College of Communication, Urban Photographers Association and London Independent Photography.  There will be two speakers from each organisation.

Tickets are free but they must be booked via:

Organisers of the symposium are Anita Strasser and Gill Golding