Private Eyes

After two intense days in Copenhagen and the conference Private Eyes: Amateur Photography and Collective Memory, I finally find myself in the warm and cosy apartment of a fellow Cultural and Media Studies PhD colleague in Malmö. This is my first opportunity to reflect on all of that has been said and shown and I do hope that I (despite my post-conference fatigue) will be able to mirror it properly.
The conference was arranged by the Department of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen and had participants from several European countries and from a wide range of research fields, arranged into the sub-categories “Family, Affect, Loss”, “ Photography, Performance and Visual Anthropology” and “Web 2.0 and the Construction of Collective Memory”. A multifaceted picture of the ongoing photographic research has been painted and many thought-provoking aspects of the field and challenges related to it have been presented. The first panel contained some highly interesting speeches related to the use of photography in the time of loss and I would especially like to mention Margaret Olin’s (Yale University, US) research on amateur photographs taken in the aftermath of 9/11.

The future of photo theory and the usage of photographic imagery within digital medias was the framework for the panel “Web 2.0 and the Construction of Collective History”. This panel addressed what I would deem one of the most pressing questions within the field of photographic research today, albeit not a new one: How do we deal with the digital photography, both as users and researchers? As one of the key note speakers (Martin Lister, University of West England, UK) pointed out, the photographic theory of today is ill equipped to deal with the new ways people use and perform photography. As researchers, Lister emphasized, we all need to engage in the creation of suitable theoretical framework to deal with the infectiously growing number of private photographs that are now made accessible for a large number of viewers. As one of the other speakers pointed out: there are 700 million new photographs posted on Facebook – every month. A truly mind-boggling number, indeed!
Other questions posed during this session was about documenting, preserving and exploring these types of photography, questions that is hard to answer but increasingly important. In short, there seem to be much to do for everyone who has an earnest interest in contemporary photography, and I hope that we will prove ourselves up to the task.

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