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.