2022_Conference: Photographic Practices as Care-Taking

Image caption Lena Gudd, Blåmann, CC BY-SA

A conference in collaboration between the research group WONA Worlding Northern Art, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø and Perspektivet Museum, Tromsø. Initiators and Organizers: Elin Haugdal, Marthe Tolnes Fjellestad, Stephanie von Spreter, Hanne Hammer Stien

Photographic Practices as Care-Taking aims to examine how photographs take part in complex networks of relations. While particularly analogue image making, curating and archiving suggest a yearning for something ostensibly more stable, more material and concrete than we experience on an everyday basis, other practices embrace today’s changing digital culture.
Thus, we ask which role photographs take in such a world of constant transformation, how they can “touch” and remain objects of affect when they are simultaneously part of rapidly changing circumstances and contexts. Can photographs be seen as “care-takers”, establishing empathic relationships between humans and between humans and more-thanhumans? Can photographs create “other” worlds of being and caring? How can photographic images and their practitioners participate in transversal, post-disciplinary processes of recoding, rewriting and “alter-worlding” (Åsberg and Braidotti 2018)? How can photographic practices be recognized as practices of care-taking, from artistic to curatorial, as well as archival and collective methods and (counter) strategies?
Thursday, 24 November
13:00-13:30 Welcome and Introduction (Marthe Tolnes Fjellestad & Stephanie von Spreter)
13:30-14:15 Keynote: Jana Haeckel, Archived Bodies, Gestures of Repair. Re-thinking Photographic and Institutional Practices of Care (online)
14:15-14:30 Short break
14:30-16:30 Caring through Photographic Practices (Session 1): Charlotte Bank (in person), Lena Gudd (in person), Hilde Honerud (in person), Anamarija Podrebarac (online) (Moderator: Hanne Hammer Stien)
16:30-17:00 Marte Aas, A Letter to Zoe, Film Screening with Introduction/Q&A with the artist (online) (Introduction: Hanne Hammer Stien)
17:00-19:00 Reception / Light Dinner at Árdna, The Sámi Cultural House at UiT

Friday, 25 November
09:15-10:45 Photography’s Entanglements and Ecologies (Session 2): Christine Hansen (in person), Elin Haugdal (in person), Synnøve Marie Vik (in person) (Moderator: Stephanie von Spreter)
10:45-11:00 Short break
11:00-12:00 Keynote: Katarina Pirak-Sikku (in person) (Introduction: Hanne Hammer Stien),
Agálaččat bivttastuvvon sohkagotti ivnniiguin / Ihkát ájttegij bájnoj gárvodum / Ihkuven aajkan maadtoej klaeriejgujmie gåårveldihkie / Perpetually Shrouded in the colours of the Ancestors / För evigt klädda i ättens färger
12:00-13:00 Lunch
13:00-14:30 Curatorial Care (Session 3): Cecilia Andersson (in person), Antonio Cataldo (online), moss collective (Elisa Maupas, Anna Stoppa (in person)) (Moderator: Elin Haugdal)
14:30-14:45 Short break
14:45-16:15 Vulnerable Photographs (Session 4): Eduard-Claudiu Gross (online), Suryanandini Narain (online), Dawn Woolley (in person) (Moderator: Marthe Tolnes Fjellestad)
17:00-19:00: Guided tour of solo exhibition Hyperborea. Stories from the Arctic with the artist Evgenia Arbugeva (in person) followed by reception, Perspektivet Museum, Tromsø

Keynote 1: Jana Haeckel, Archived Bodies, Gestures of Repair. Re-thinking Photographic and Institutional Practices of Care
Since its early beginnings, photography has served to document and categorize bodies in so-called state archives according to racist, sexist, and criminal categories. Taking Allan Sekula’s seminal essay “The Body and the Archive” as a point of departure, my lecture looks at artistic photography practices that subvert imperial image archives and develop alternative representations of bodies based on ethics of care. These works operate outside normalizing viewing regimes and offer empathic gestures of repair by embracing the „other“, fragile, sick, and non-human body. Significantly, Sekula saw photography as a form of social engagement or „care-work“, answerable to the world and its problems. In a second, more practical and self-reflective step, I will therefore discuss how practices of care can be implemented in the curatorial and structural work of institutions in order to help bodies in need.

Jana Johanna Haeckel is an art historian, curator and lecturer who currently serves as director of Photoforum Pasquart (Biel, Switzerland). She holds a PhD in art history and is associate researcher at the Lieven Gevaert Research Centre For Photography (KU Leuven/UC Louvain). Her written and curatorial work examines image and body politics in contemporary art and new media, focusing on new ethics of photography in the age of the digital and art practices that subvert historical and colonial narratives through archival research.

Keynote 2: Katarina Pirak-Sikku, Agálaččat bivttastuvvon sohkagotti ivnniiguin, Ihkát ájttegij bájnoj gárvodum, Ihkuven aajkan maadtoej klaeriejgujmie gåårveldihkie / Perpetually Shrouded in the colours of the Ancestors / För evigt klädda i ättens färger

For this talk, Katarina Pirak Sikku takes as her starting point the work Agálaččat bivttastuvvon sohkagotti ivnniiguin, Ihkát ájttegij bájnoj gárvodum, Ihkuven aajkan maadtoej klaeriejgujmie gåårveldihkie / Perpetually Shrouded in the colours of the Ancestors / För evigt klädda i ättens färger, which, in a sense, is the culmination of a years-long artistic practice based on the deep and difficult traces left by racial biology in the Sámi community.  
In the archive of the State Institute for Racial Biology, Uppsala University Library, are 117 photo albums, of which 47 contain images of Sámi. The albums originate from all over Sápmi and are organized by geographical location. All of the photographs are anonymous. Under each is a number. 
For each of the 47 albums, the artist has made a sewn cover, carefully created with each location’s specific costume traditions in mind. The materials are cloth, thin tin wire, beads, ribbons, and lace. In this way, the artist wants to return the history of these black and white photographs. She wants to communicate: I have seen you, I know your history. The title, Agálášvuođa giesaldagat, can best be described as an act of creating, aiming to highlight and forever wrap and clothe the vulnerable with their own stories and traditions.

Katarina Pirak Sikku was born in 1965 and grew up in Jåhkåmåhkke (Jokkmokk) where she today lives and works as an artist. She comes from a family where both duodji and art have been a natural part of life. Pirak Sikku started her art education in her 30s, first in Kiruna and then at the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts at Umeå University, graduating in 2005. Since then, she has had several exhibitions, including at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Bildmuseet, Umeå and Skellefteå konsthall and Ájtte museum, Jokkmokk. Her public artwork Vájaldibme / Wandering (2019) is on display at Mittuniversitetet in Östersund, Sweden. Pirak Sikku’s artistic practice engages with ethnology and the history of racial biology, in particular in relation to archival studies at the National Institute of Racial Biology in Uppsala. Her way of working can be described as drawing attention to wounds in the landscape and their people, searching for places and people's stories. She has investigated the legacy of racial biology research in several exhibitions and works, including Nammalahppan (2014) and Agálaččat bivttastuvvon sohkagotti ivnniiguin Ihkuven aajkan maadtoej klaeriejgujmie gåårveldihkie (2020). Pirak Sikku often works with installations and large projects, while her own archive consists of preliminary works and sketches. The work Ninety years and nine months between Tina Margareta and Máridjá Margareta Afra (2002) revolves around the memories of three generations connected to a silver collar. In Just for the pleasure (2004) she takes power over definitions of gender, sexuality and ethnicity through a humorous play with clothes and codes.

Film Screening: Marte Aas, A Letter to Zoe

A container is a tool, something that holds, a receiver, a recipient. A container has traditionally been seen as passive and "unintelligent" and has routinely been overlooked and undervalued in the philosophical analyses of technology. The film A Letter to Zoe focuses on questions of containment and supply via use of the container as a fundamental metaphor. The woman in the film talks about her house, about the pregnant recipient of the letter, about her memories, about data-storage technology, thereby asserting that a container is neither silent nor passive, and is in constant, vigorous interaction with those who use it. Exactly like the heroes in origin myths, aggressive equipment and dynamic machines have been given more attention than receptive and transformative "feminine" containment technologies. A container is created to hold to receive, but always risks leakage. This imperfection is part of the essence of the container. To be able to contain something, the container must have a limit, a border, but these borders are always elastic and unstable. Thus, the film is an account of the complexity of the connection between the human being and nature, and of the technology we employ.

Marte Aas is a photographer and film maker. Aas’ main area of interest is the intersection between contemporary image culture, history, technology, and landscape. Her work attempts to address underlying structures and gestures that form political and ideological narratives. The different subjects of interest visualizes in the form of films, photographs and installations, folding them into non-linear and layered narratives. Aas is educated at The School of Photography at The University of Gothenburg and has had a number of exhibitions and screenings in Norway and abroad. She has been working as a lecturer at KMD, University of Bergen, The Art Academy, NTNU and Khio in Oslo and has published several books and catalogues including Marte Aas – Photography and Film, 2010, Torshovtoppen, 2008 and On the Subject of Body and Space, 2013. She is also one of the founding members of the independent publishing house Multipress.

Session 1: Caring through Photographic Practices

Charlotte Bank, Divine Creatures. Queer Subjectivities and Care-Taking in Contemporary Photography from the Middle East

This paper discusses the work of three contemporary Middle Eastern artists, Chaza Charafeddine (Lebanon), Omar Sfeir (Lebanon) and Ahlam Shibli (Palestine), who adopt an inclusive mode of photographic practice with the aim to grant greater visibility to marginalized societal groups. As exemplified in Charafeddine’s series Divine Comedy (2010), Sfeir’s Marchand de rêves (2018/19) and Shibli’s Eastern LGBT (2004/06), this practice involves a long-term commitment to the communities they are portraying and a collaborative approach to the portraits. The projects focus on people with non-binary gender identities and their self-perception in order to counteract the "voyeuristic objectification" to which they are often subjected (T.J. Demos: “Disappearance and Precarity: On the Photography of Ahlam Shibli”, https://img.macba.cat/public/uploads/20130528/TJDemos.pdf). Chaza Charafeddine's project creates a time-spanning imaginary space in which future possibilities of queer existences can be imagined, Ahlam Shibli's images follow the protagonists – LGBTQ-identifying young people of Middle Eastern origin living in exile in a number of Western cities – in their everyday activities and at joint celebrations, and Omar Sfeir creates a space for participants to re/imagine identities and personas in settings that are reminiscent of theatre and cinema. Bank will discuss the processes of the projects, in which the inclusive and collaborative aspects help to create a safe space of mutual care and even healing and how they function as a means of empowerment and as sites that enable a greater visibility of marginalized social groups that allow them to reclaim a space as active participants of the social sphere.

Charlotte Bank is an art historian and curator. Currently, she is postdoctoral researcher at
the Department of Art and Society, University of Kassel. She holds a PhD in Arabic Culture
and Language from the University of Geneva and has held academic positions and
fellowships at the Universities of Bamberg and Geneva, the Orient Institute Beirut and the
Museum of Islamic Art Berlin. Her monograph, titled The Contemporary Art Scene in Syria:
Social Critique and an Artistic Movement was published in 2020 by Routledge.

Lena Gudd, Organic Photographic Processes as Care-Taking

Foraging has been an integral part of Sami, Kven and Norwegian ways of life and still is today. The berries, seaweed or mushrooms that Gudd forages around Tromsø, nourish in a different way - they become the organic material for her photographic works. Based on these local plants, she prepares organic developers, creates film soups or ferments film rolls. The use of eco-processing techniques closely links the medium of photography with more than human beings and the disturbances of our planet. Fermented photographs are, for instance, based on the entanglements of gelatine, bacteria, plants, salt, sun, energy, water, plastic and steel, a true multispecies result of our times. By acknowledging the nonhuman and life-shaping qualities of photography through plant-based processes, the medium can function as a catalyst for more ethical ways of engaging with the more than human world. It moves photography away from the idea of objective representation and bases it instead on reciprocity and care. Thinking-with plants and photography can be a useful way to navigate subjects related to sustainability, reciprocity, ethics or ways of knowing. It also leads to bigger questions of how to live together in a sustainable way on our troubled planet. This presentation argues that organic photographic practices can be a way of care-taking and relation building with nonhumans by tightly intermingling the natural world within the photographic process. Gudd will exemplify this by means of different plant-based photographic practices as well as by displaying the visual outcomes of her own plant-based photographic research.

As artist-researcher, Lena Gudd explores human and nonhuman entanglements within the subarctic and arctic regions through the prisms of photography and feminist environmental (post) humanities with an ethics that is based on care, response-ability and reciprocity. After a Masters in European Studies, Gudd worked on long-term research-creation projects in Canada and Norway that resulted in exhibitions, talks, workshops and publications. Today she focuses on organic photographic processes in her work.

Hilde Honerud, Photography as Violence. On Experience and Manipulation

Through her photographic work with refugees around the Mediterranean Honerud over time turned towards formalistic manipulation of photographs, twisting and distorting the images. At first, only minor disruptions to convey an experience beyond the documentary image, and after some years, introducing conspicuous manipulations. The creation of these images was a visual process, where she worked with the appearance and visuality of the image. Still, the motivation for the process was intellectual; Honerud wanted to disrupt documentary reading to push observers to question the objectivity of the images, she wanted to move from representation to immediate experience. This was no doubt a violence on the image that Honerud could only do after spending long time and getting to know the destinies and vulnerable position of people under refugee. Not only the violence of recording a photograph, but the additional violence to the image in the following process. This was more important, and more difficult, since the motives, refugees in Lesvos, is one of both distress and political controversy. In Honerud’s latest exhibition she displayed only the latter kind of works, to see if it is a difference in displaying such images by themselves, compared to being a contrast to seemingly “normal” images. This process raises a number of artistic and ethical questions, and to her the two most important questions are: Does the violence on the image remind us of the violence of the photography, or is it an additional violence? Does the exhibition of only conspicuously manipulated photographs emancipate the viewers to experience, or merely disconnect experience from the realities the images reflect?

Hilde Honerud is educated at the National Academy of Arts in Oslo and is an associate professor of photography at the University of Southeastern Norway. She is the leader of the research group: Research in Arts and Design (RAAD). Academic interests are particularly linked to visual arts and photography as an expression and form of communication. Preoccupied with the relationship between form and content. In the last 14 years, this has often been linked to the relationship between geopolitical events and the individual from a humanistic perspective, such as life in refugee camps, children in Palestine, news disasters and more. Active visual artist with regular exhibitions and artistic publications.

Anamarija Podrebarac, Generating Images on Future Memories; Artificial Intelligence and Data of Caring

This paper examines the role of Artificial Intelligence technology, precisely the use of generating images using a large dataset. In the recent year, we see curators, artists and writers using generative technology (GANs) in their work. One such example is google open AI system known as DALL-E. With the latest update, DALL-E 2 (https://openai.com/dall-e-2/) generates more realistic and accurate images while reading text that describes them. We currently experience the rise of AI-generated images on the internet and slowly seeing their way into a physical gallery (https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/03/ai-created-art-invades-chelsea-gallery-scene/584134/). These images ask questions on copyright, authenticity, and a role of an artist in a post-informational age. This research addresses possibilities in generating images of the future using photography of the past as a dataset and creating a vision of the future. The central focus will be on addressing photography as a document of care rather than time. Applying the method of image generating and the use of artificial intelligence, we can bring new knowledge in understanding photography as a form of looking into the future, rather than into the past.

Anamarija Ami Podrebarac is an interdisciplinary artist doing a PhD in AI and creative computing. Her approach to research is rooted in a philosophical practice of non-representational theory, that the world cannot be theorised through examining our perceptual mind, but in mere experimentation and motivated on a sentiment. The central focus of her work is to question our position in the interpretation of art and expand our understanding and our perceptions of the world by rejecting traditional ideas of the human form. Technology is positioned as a centre of knowing rather than a position of "other". Her research has been published by Routledge Publishers in the book Fragmentation of the Photographic Image in the Digital Age, chapter Fifteen: “Introduction to Natural Language Processing”. Her written art practice has been published twice by Hinterhouse Editions, books called 0 and 1, and the book History of Photography. She works with natural language processing technology, performance art and digital photography.

Session 2: Photography’s Entanglements and Ecologies

Christine Hansen, A Closer Look. Photography as a Gaze of Care

In this paper Hansen will discuss the works of Verena Winkelmann, Kirsti Van Hoege, Carl Goodpasture, and Ulla Schildt. Through photography they investigate natural history displays, insects, compost and vegetables. Hansen will argue that these photographers use photography as a means to study their surroundings with empathy, with something that could be termed a gaze of care.  In different ways they employ a method of continual examination and re-examination of their subjects to reveal details of the everyday and the overlooked. The background for these practices could among other things be found in the invention of Linné’s taxonomy, a system for categorization and classification of plants. This method is an essential element of modern culture and is in many ways the foundation of today’s relationship to and exploitation of nature. In addition, Hansen will see these practices in relation to the still-life tradition and its elevation of the ordinary. In her paper she will draw on the work of Mary Louise Pratt, Steve Edwards, and Norman Bryson.  

Christine Hansen is an independent scholar and photographer based in Stavanger. She holds a PhD in art history. Her dissertation from 2012 takes a critical look at the interest in developed landscapes using the photo-series Norsk Landskap 1987 as a case study. Hansen has also published on photography’s role in the environmental controversy connected to the instalment of power masts in Hardanger.  In her own art practice, she has worked with questions connected to landscape and nature over many years. In her last and ongoing project Nedsenket Natur (Submerged Nature), she investigates underwater landscapes and the ocean’s place in the historical and artistic imagination.   

Elin Haugdal, Care-Taking of Plants and Photography through Arctic Changes

In the world’s northernmost archives, I came across some vernacular photographs from the settlements on Svalbard which stand out against the well-known imagery of the high Arctic, be it the remote white glaciers or the coal-black miners. These odd photographs – recorded by temporary settlers in the Norwegian, Swedish, and Soviet company towns between the 1920s and 1980s – have plants as their main motif. And not only so, the pictures render plants and people entangled in various relations of care either in their “natural” wild and native environment, in small self-built greenhouses, or inside the settlers’ living rooms, artificially lit during the polar night. Under these marginal conditions plants needs a lot of effort, patience and care to sprout and grow. No wonder the care-takers want the photographer to depict the plants when blooming. However, also the photographs themselves were created under marginal conditions on Svalbard in this period in terms of the effort, patience and care that went into the moment of making the photographs, and the expertise, equipment and costs, needed to develop them. The photographers, thus, were engaged in care-taking practices in the Svalbard settlements by producing portraits which are as liable to disappear as the plants are to die. Facing a future and warmer Arctic with changed life forms, migrating plants and peoples, these historical photographs contribute to the need to undo the opposition between nature and society and to recognize the ‘sociality beyond the human.’ 

Elin Haugdal, Dr.Art. Professor in Art History at UiT the Arctic University of Norway, is specialized in contemporary art, architecture and photography in the Nordic North. She has participated in research projects on architecture and landscape in northern areas, and on art production and photography associated with the Arctic. Haugdal is currently the head of the research group Worlding Northern Art (WONA).

Synnøve Marie Vik, Photography of Tree Planting: Power and Care

Bergen Skog og Træplantningsselskap was initiated in 1868 with the purpose of “dressing” the mountains surrounding the city of Bergen with trees. Afforestation, or the creation of a forest where there previously was none, had mainly sprung from resource shortage and from an economical perspective, but forest-clad mountains were also an aesthetic preference at the time. Fast-forward 150 years and the effort’s huge consequences for the cultural landscape and on the diversity of local plant- and animal life is both highly visible and well-known. Afforestation establishes a monoculture, reducing biodiversity, and thus afforestation is now restricted by law. This paper will discuss the visual culture of afforestation from the 1860s until today, understood within a framework of terms such as Anthropocene/Plantationocene, and with an image material spanning early documentary photography to contemporary art. Starting with the work by Knud Knudsen (1832–1915), we are able to trace the early signs of the afforestation changing the landscape around Bergen. Interestingly, in parallel with his vocation as a photographer, Knudsen had a long and successful career as a horticulturalist. Knudsen trained and experimented as a grafter, studying the science of “pomology” and fruit cultivation. Knudsen photographed the horticultural working methods and technologies involved. This paper will explore how we might see care and caretaking as integral to horticultural practices and afforestation, as well as photography. Today, forestation is regarded as an important climate mitigation project, an attempt at taking care of a planet that suffers the unintended consequences of human led cultivation and resource extraction. Forest preservation as well as similar forms of horticultural projects are prominent motifs in numerous artistic practices. I will argue that these practices show us how these photographs of tree planting, and forest preservation effectively displays and discusses the dichotomy of care: On the one hand caring is labour intensive, an intellectual, physical, and emotional struggle. On the other, an uneven power relation is present in any form of caretaking, where one part is reliant on the caretaker.

Synnøve Marie Vik is the academic director of The Picture Collection, Department for Special Collections, at the University of Bergen Library. Vik is a PhD in visual culture from the University of Bergen with a dissertation titled Nature as violent and violated: Five essays on the visual culture of the Anthropocene (2021). She is trained as an art historian and curator, and has worked as a museum director, curator and art critic, as well as a special adviser in art and cultural politics. Her research interests include ecocriticism, the Anthropocene, petroculture, photography and archival studies.

Session 3: Curatorial Care

Cecilia Andersson, Care in the Arab Community

Nine years ago Andersson curated an exhibition at Bildmuseet in Umeå which later travelled to Malmö Konsthall with the all-female photo collective Rawiya. Based in the Middle East, the work of this group of photographers focused on long-term engagement with communities in various Arab regions. For instance, Laura Boushnak followed adult women learning to read and write in Kuwait, Myriam Abdelaziz documented the forbidden practice of belly dancing in Cairo, Newsha Tavakolian staged theatrical images concerned with the oppressive regime in Iran. Common to their photographic practices were their personal relationships with the region, its people and problems. But also,  Rawiya’s mission was to address the fact that to the rest of the world, images from the Middle East were most often photographed by white males who flew in on short assignments to show the rest of the world what was going on. These images often depicted violence, outrage and despair. Members of Rawiya, meaning she who tells a story, focussed their work on communities, people in their everyday lives. Photography became a means to build and communicate relationships between various groups in this conflict-ridden region. In her presentation Andersson will revisit Rawiya and present an update on the current work of its members.

Cecilia Andersson is a curator and head of department at MAN/Museum Anna Nordlander in Skellefteå, Sweden. She studied photography at ICP in New York and have a master’s degree in curating from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her main interests are in the relationship between art and audience, art and democracy and how art may affect social change. She worked in Beirut between 2008-2011.

Antonio Cataldo, Institutional negative spaces, image building, and image caring

This paper will investigate how institutions can be read as highly imaginative, inventive, and generative, creating a negative space that shields people from societal pressure (Deleuze, 1955). It will argue that the function of such negative space is to care about different identities, specifically by studying Fotogalleriet, an institution solely dedicated to image-making (and image-caring) since its founding in 1977. It will consider how an institutional building is a form of care —creating the socio-economic conditions for recognition of labor (Fraser, 1994)— while at the same time forging forgetfulness— constantly prioritizing particular storytelling over others. This double entanglement of care within institutions maintains in tension a divisive character, a world needing constant redefinition to acknowledge others’ conditions (Fraser, 2016). Exhibiting images of its times has been the task of Fotogalleriet. In a Deleuzian fashion, it provided images representing collective demands. As the institution’s artistic director, Cataldo will analyze the artistic project by Andreas Angelidakis, Softwalk (2021). The project addressed “recoding, rewriting and ‘alter-worlding’” by turning capital accumulation, movement, and ruination into soft material, asking: Does bundling digital and physical spaces produce new photographic proof of other worlds, and redefine socio-economic conditions of the physical and digital surroundings of the institution? Does the exhibition allow us to redefine ruination as the site of Modern contemplation of the photographic paradigm? Does “taking things down” and making them soft (Halberstam, 2020) create new opportunities for caretaking and caregiving? What forms of care do the architectural, photographic production, and reproduction of Angelidakis’ work create?   

Dr. Antonio Cataldo is the artistic director of Fotogalleriet, the first institution working with photography as critical art in the Nordic region. He studied with Professor Giorgio Agamben in Venice, earning his MA. He completed his Ph.D. in Curatorial Studies at the University of Reading, and ZHdK, Zurich, in 2022. Over the last two decades, Cataldo held positions at OCA, Oslo, La Biennale di Venezia, and the University Iuav of Venice. Cataldo currently serves on the boards of Kunsthallene i Norge, the Fotografi magazine, the Museum of Science and Technology (deputy), and the Sandefjord Kunstforening’s Art Award jury.

moss collective, The Pharmakon Image: Photographic Manipulation as a Tool for Coping and Healing

Can photography provide a framework to cope with the present, transcend it, heal it? We argue that photographic images can be considered as a pharmakon, given their capability of transmitting, violence, pain, trauma, and simultaneously carrying the potential for care, repair, and healing. The inherent dimension of care within certain artistic practices is easily recognizable when artists employ explicit strategies to counter the violence embedded within the images: whether by concealing their contents, altering their original appearance, reframing them within a fictional context, or performatively caring for the physical support of the photograph itself. Moss collective classifies these visual strategies of manipulation of the photographic record (and its material support) as acts of care, born out of the intention of the artists to reframe the perception of their own reality, recovering or staging alternative histories to repair cultural erasure, even attempting to symbolically heal a traumatic narrative. By investigating selected photographic practices (i.e. Laurence Aëgerter, Agnès Geoffray, Léa Belooussovitch, Estefanía Peñafiel Loaiza, among others), their curatorial research aims to understand the processes by which the photographic image becomes itself a means of managing the negative impact it can have on the viewer, questioning the agency and role of photographic images beyond their documentary role, while reflecting on their potential as interfaces of individual closure and collective remediation.

Lieselotte Egtberts, Elisa Maupas, Lucie Ménard and Anna Stoppa collaborate as a curatorial collective under the name moss since 2020. Sustained by different professional experiences in institutions, galleries and independent art spaces, they focus on conceiving context-specific projects, working within a framework in which horizontal collaboration with artists is valued as indispensable.
They are among the recipients of the 2022 research grant of the Institut pour la Photographie, Lille. Their current research project ‘Deal With It’ investigates the curative dimension inherent specific artistic gestures and practices of repair, and the potential for images to act as tools of resistance.

moss collective would like to thank The Institut pour la Photographie, Lille for supporting their research and for their participation in this conference.

Session 4: Vulnerable Photographs

Eduard-Claudiu Gross, Displaced Histories. The Circulation of Orphan Photographs and their Archival Importance

The subject of this research is one that seldom comes to the attention of scholars, namely, photographs displaced from family albums that end up being sold at flea markets or antique shops, also known as “orphan photographs”. Orphan photographs in Tina Campt’s (2012) definition are those photographs to which there is no longer access to the people who are depicted in the photograph or to their families who could speak to the circumstances in which the photograph was taken. As Ewa Stańczyk (2017) exemplifies, for a stranger casually stumbling upon her family's family photo album, he might assume that the family belonged to a different social class ignoring the real context of the photos, marked by financial hardship and hard work. This research will focus on a family photo album purchased at a flea market that captures in a chronological order the memories of a German family from 1927 to 1991. The approach proposed in this paper is to combine analogue methods of identification (data inscribed in an album, possible written locations, the photographer's name or studio inscription) in combination with digital elements of identification of the places where the photographs were taken (image search engines such as Google Lens, TinEye, Bing, etc.).

Eduard-Claudiu Gross is a Ph.D. student at the Doctoral School of Communication, PR, and Advertising, Faculty of Political, Administrative, and Communication Science, within the “Babeș-Bolyai” University of Cluj-Napoca, with a particular interest in researching the digital space and the impact of emerging technology on the individual. His areas of research interest are photography, digital disinformation, and philosophy.

Suryanandini Narain, A Give and Take: Family Albums and Care

This paper will explore the historic and mnemonic potential of family photographic albums
in a mutual relationship of care with their owners. Based on primary research in north India, the study will regard analogue photographs of two families in an intersectional space, as precious inheritances, but also forgotten, hidden and deliberately discarded artefacts, complicating the idea of ‘care’. Conversely, such albums assist in constituting and caring for the family itself, attesting to people’s sense of belonging and ‘familyness’ in the photographic moment and thereafter. Suryannandini Narain focuses on feminine narratives of care, as women in families nurture photographic microhistories, addressing dominant patriarchal narratives in various degrees of compliance and contradiction. She also looks at institutional responses to the demands for care of family albums, in terms of ethical usage, permissions, digitisation and conservation. She will conclude with presenting the anthology titled Framing Portraits, Binding Albums: Family Photographs in India, co-edited by herself, to be published by Zubaan Books (India, 2023). Comprising 22 scholarly essays, it examines diverse relationships with family photographs, ranging across degrees of intimacy and absence. The methodological approaches of the contributors and their modes of textualisation are richly varied, in response to multiple epistemologies of photography in the subcontinent. The anthology examines how family photos provide counternarratives to dominant strains of thought on migration, displacement, trauma and death, as also travel, sexuality, materiality, and intergenerational relationships, located across caste, class and gender. The volume aims to redeem the family photograph from an area of neglect and bring it to the fore as a major strategy for social research and documentation in South Asia.

Suryanandini Narain is Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has written extensively on photography in India, especially around themes of women, the family, the home and studio photography, in publications including Marg Magazine, Art India, Visual Anthropology Review, Trans Asia Photography Review and others. At JNU, she teaches courses on Indian visual culture, photography, aesthetic theory and critical writing, and supervises research students working on photography, graphic novels, digital visual cultures, and popular art. Recent publications are ‘Women on Holiday:  Intergenerational Narratives in Photographic Albums from India’, Diverse Voices in Photographic Albums: These Are Our Stories, eds. Mary Trent and and Kris Belden-Adams; Routledge, 2022 and ‘Constructing the Conjugal: photographs of marriage in India’, Points of View: Defining Moments of Photography in India ed. Gayatri Sinha, Publisher: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, 2022.

Dawn Woolley, Queer Selfies as Practices of Care-taking (and giving)

Research on selfies finds that negative feedback in comments and the currency of likes reinforce and police dominant feminine or masculine beauty ideals. Binary gender ideals can also be reproduced in selfies. For example, Döring et al. (2016) analysed 500 Instagram selfies to explore if they conform to gender stereotypes as identified in Erving Goffman’s 1976 Gender Advertisements. The study revealed that gender stereotypical behaviours found in adverts are repeated in selfies, and that some of the behaviours featured in selfies more frequently than in magazine adverts. Despite these well documented negative impacts, selfies are an important mode of self-presentation. Research on queer selfies has highlighted their role in enhancing queer visibility, raising awareness of queer oppression and challenging stereotypes. In research with trans and gender-fluid Tumblr users, Vivienne (2017) found positive comments on selfies helped promote body acceptance and that users viewed trans and gender-fluid selfies as defying industries that promote binary beauty ideals and capitalise on consumer’s insecurities. Nonbinary artist and writer Alok Vaid-Menon, describes their Instagram-based self-portraiture as a “sort of idyllic space too—an imagination of what I could look like/become without fear of harassment” (Lehner, 2019). This paper will draw on her research into selfie taking practices, and also two participatory research projects around queering the gender binary (Bois of Isolation co-produced with Dr AC Davidson) and producing creative selfies that evade commoditisation and discipline (#EmpoweringPresence, new project), to consider selfie taking and sharing as practices of care.

Woolley is an artist and research fellow at Leeds Arts University. She completed an MA in Photography (2008) and PhD by project in Fine Art (2017) at the Royal College of Art. Solo exhibitions include Consumed: Stilled Lives, BildKultur Galerie, Stuttgart (2022), Perth Centre for Photography, Australia, (2021) and Ffotogallery, Cardiff (2018); and Visual Pleasure, Hippolyte Photography Gallery, Helsinki, (2013), Vilniaus Fotografijos Galerija and Lithuania (2012). Publications include Consuming the Body: Capitalism Social Media and Commodification (London: Bloomsbury, 2022) and “The Dissecting Gaze: Fashioned Bodies on Social Networking Sites,” in Revisiting the Gaze: Feminism, Fashion and the Female Body (London: Bloomsbury, 2020).

About WONA:

Worlding Northern Art (WONA) is a research group at the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education of UiT The Arctic University of Norway. Its goal is to strengthen research in art history and visual culture in Northern Norway and the Circumpolar North, and to incorporate curatorial practices and artistic research.
WONA’s interests and activities are oriented towards both new and traditional art historical objects, media and research fields. Theoretically and methodically WONA operates in the contact zone between different disciplines including anthropology, history, religious studies, sociology, gender studies and indigenous studies. Ongoing and upcoming projects within the group demonstrate a diversity in terms of research material, geographical scope and historical parameters. What brings these projects together, however, is a common engagement in the fields of Arctic visual culture, Sami art, exhibition practices and museum institutions. At the core of Worlding Northern Art is the understanding of art as an important social and political factor which we see as our mission to explore and disseminate. The concept worlding is useful in discussions of art in relation to place and identity, ecology and ways of life, and our understanding and acquisition of knowledge.

About the Conference Initiators and Organizers:

Elin Haugdal, Dr.Art. Professor in Art History at UiT the Arctic University of Norway, is specialized in contemporary art, architecture and photography in the Nordic North. She has participated in research projects on architecture and landscape in northern areas, and on art production and photography associated with the Arctic. Haugdal is currently the head of the research group Worlding Northern Art (WONA).

Marthe Tolnes Fjellestad trained as an art photographer and holds an MA in Critical Writing and Curatorial Practice from Chelsea College of Art, London and an MA in Photographic History and Theory from De Montfort University, Leicester. She is the co-author, with Solveig Greve, of Starman – Sophus Tromholt Photographs 1882–1883 (Forlaget Press, 2018). As curator at the University of Bergen Library, Fjellestad and Shannon Egan co-edited and co-curated Across the West Toward the North: Norwegian and American Landscape Photography, touring 2020–2024. Fjellestad is the curator at Perspektivet Museum, Tromsø.

Stephanie von Spreter is Doctoral Research Fellow in Art History at UiT the Arctic University of Norway and member of research group Worlding Northern Art (uit.no/research/wona). She recently published “Pia Arke and ‘Arctic Hysteria’: Visual Repatriation and the Problematics of a ‘Lost’ Artwork,” (Kunst og Kultur, Vol. 105, Issue 2-3, 2022) and “Feminist strategies for changing the story: re-imagining Arctic exploration narratives through (the staging of) photographs, travel writing and found objects,” (Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, Vol. 13, Issue 1, 2021). She is member of the interdisciplinary research project Urban Ecologies: City Sensing Beyond the Human (urbanecologies.no). She previously served as artistic director of Fotogalleriet, Oslo and worked for international exhibitions including the 3rd, 4th and 5th Berlin Biennale, the 50. Venice Biennale and Documenta11. Von Spreter also works as a freelance curator and writer.

Hanne Hammer Stien is Associate Professor in Art History at Academy of Arts and Vice-Director of The Arctic University Museum of Norway and Academy of Fine Arts, UiT The Arctic University of Norway. Her research interests are museology and curatorial practice, the history and theory of photography, contemporary art and art theory, and Sámi and Greenlandic art. Stien's recent publications are the anthology Kunstskapte fellesskap (Fagbokforlaget 2022), edited together with Melanie Fieldseth and Jorunn Veiteberg, and “Dagliglivsfotografier og verdensgjøring i Inuuteq Storchs Porcelain Souls” (Kunst og Kultur, Vol. 105, Issue 2-3, 2022).