iAVU members Gill Golding (Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths) and Anita Strasser (PhD Candidate Visual Sociology) organised Engaging in Urban Image-Making, a symposium which was hosted by the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) at Goldsmiths, University of London at the end of April. The symposium was generously supported by the Graduate School Fund, CUCR, OpenVizor and Urban Photographers Association.
The purpose of this one-day event was to begin a dialogue about how we engage with urban life in our image-making practices in the 21st century with an emphasis on photography and film-making.
We were delighted that our intention to bring together practitioners from four organisations: Goldsmiths, University of London, Photojournalism London College of Communication, Urban Photographers Association and London Independent Photography resulted in diverse and thought-provoking presentations that addressed how image making can support our understanding of some of the complexities associated with contemporary urban life.
The event was introduced by Caroline Knowles who provided an overview of the history and importance of the CUCR, alongside Gill Golding and Anita Strasser who introduced the theme of the symposium.
The presentations were organised into four panels; one for each organisation.
Panel One: Speakers from Goldsmiths, University of London
Paul Halliday presented Democracy Wall: On the Politics of Silence and Palatable Dissent drawing upon his latest body of large-scale colour photographic work focusing on everyday objects and urban materialities. Some fascinating insights were explored that addressed urban change and how people make their presence known, whilst opening up questions that addressed what it means to engage through photographic practice.
Emma Jackson, a sociologist, and Andy Lee, a film-maker, presented their collaborative film Bowling Together? Portrait of a League. Through the exploration of themes of bowling as a practice of belonging in the city, the film investigates the social dynamics and interactions of a diverse population set against proposals for regeneration and the gentrification of the local area.
Panel Two: Speakers from the London College of Communication
Jennifer Good’s evocative presentation 9/11: Street photography and terror considered the transformation of New York City both physically and symbolically after the events of 9/11. The circulation of imagery and the mode of witnessing at the heart of street photography was analysed considering the psychological impact of trauma. Questions were raised about the type of metanarrative that had been created.
Lewis Bush presented Metropolis Now which explores the transformation of London into an ‘investment opportunity’ for globalised capital. Now a city of demolition, cranes and glittering new high rises, the use of high-contrast black and white double exposures of the new architecture has created imagery that replicates the increasing levels of alienation and loss felt by many Londoners who are being priced out of the capital.
Panel 3: Speakers from Urban Photographers Association
Laura Cuch presented Spiritual Flavours, a collaborative arts project with members of different faith communities in Ealing and Hanwell. 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, particularly that which is related to food, cooking and eating.
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.
Panel 4: Speakers from London Independent Photography
Mo Greig’s presentation, We’re Already Here, 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 and outside the UK, enabling her to provide a challenge to the prevalent rhetoric. Mo will be continuing this project in light of the Brexit decision.
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. Jonathan has spent several years photographing and engaging with this 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.
We completed the day with a film showing of Paris 19 - Survival: from the series Paris 19: Mobility, Memory and Migration by Andrés Borda-González, David Kendall, Abbas Nokhasteh, Dr. Moustafa Traoré, OpenVizor, 2011
Feedback about the symposium has been exceptionally positive with recognition given to the diversity of our speakers who maintained interest throughout the day. The theme about engagement in urban image-making was evident within all the presentations which we hope will encourage further conversations.
We would like to thank all of our presenters and sponsors (and our volunteer, Laura Henneke) for a very successful symposium. We are keen to make this into an annual event and look forward to developing our ideas.
For further information about the symposium, please visit: https://engaginginurbanimagemaking.wordpress.com
Gill Golding and Anita Strasser
The International Association of Visual Urbanists (iAVU) is an academic and creative arts organisation that aims to foster the study and use of visual materials within urban research
Find us on Facebook
Find us on Twitter