The Business of Photography, Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University

June 17-18, 2019, Leicester, UK

Keynote speakers:
Michelle Henning, Professor in Photography and Cultural History, University of West London. Lecture title: Colorsnap! Aesthetics, Technology and Capital in the 1928 Boom

Jennifer Tucker, Associate Professor of History and Science in Society, Wesleyan University (Middletown, Connecticut). Lecture title: Arming Society with Cameras: The Interlocked Histories of Photography and Gun Manufacture

Plenary speakers:

Elizabeth Edwards FBA, Professor Emerita in Photographic History, Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University. Lecture title: Marketing ‘Knowledge Objects’: Photographic Recodability as Business Opportunity

Steve Edwards, Professor of History and Theory of Photography, Birkbeck, University of London. Lecture title: Icebergs, or from Art to Business and Back


‘Business’ can have many meanings. In the most straightforward sense, it refers to the photographic marketplace, its industry and the commercial relations established among different agents. Some of these actors, such as studios and companies of the like of Kodak and Ilford, are specifically photographic and have featured prominently in histories of photography. But the photographic business also depends on other social, cultural and economic agents like chemical supply companies, image brokers, content providers, commissioning editors, advertising campaign managers and digitization officers, among others.

Especially since the beginning of the 21st century, historians have begun to pay attention to the broader implications of what one might call ‘the business of photography’. In this sense, it is not only about commerce and trade, but also about visual and material economies, where photography and the many worlds and people it affects directly or indirectly negotiate, define or transform social, cultural, political, scientific, and other ideological environments as well as values.

In this 7th annual conference of the PHRC, we intend to stretch the notion of ‘the business of photography’. While not neglecting the transformative role of photographic companies and that of photographers as businessmen and women, we wish to diversify our understanding of ‘business’ to include the circulation of and the impact exerted by photographic images, objects and raw materials.

The conference will feature seven panels – Influencing Taste; Business-Education / Education-Business; Bureaucratic Record Economies; New Markets; Distribution; Business Administration; Causes and Costs – and the selected papers will think outside of the box while addressing themes such as:

Photographic recycling
The life of photographic raw materials
Gender and photographic businesses
The marketization of individual and collective identities
Photographic image banks
Photography in political and financial economies
Photography in the heritage industry

Registration and programme available here.

Posted: May 05, 2019