© 2017 Anita Strasser
‘Engaging in Urban Image-making’ was a one-day symposium hosted by the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) at Goldsmiths, in April 2017. It was organised by Anita Strasser (PhD candidate Visual Sociology) and Gill Golding (Board member of the International Visual Sociology Association) and generously supported by Graduate School Fund, CUCR, OpenVizor and Urban Photographers Association. It brought together practitioners from 4 different organisations: The Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths University of London, Photojournalism Course at London College of Communication, Urban Photographers Association and London Independent Photography. Its purpose was to begin a cross-organisational dialogue about how we engage with urban life in our image-making practices in the 21st century.
After introductions by Caroline Knowles, Gill Golding and Anita Strasser, providing an overview of the history and importance of CUCR and the symposium, we started with Paul Halliday’s Democracy Wall: On The Politics of Silence and Palatable Dissent, drawing on his own experiences of making images in street contexts and what it means to construct images that speak to and of the politics of contested urban spaces. Despite the fire alarm going off unexpectedly, we managed to stay on track with Emma Jackson’s short documentary film about Rowans’ bowling league, a collaboration between her, a sociologist, and film-maker Andy Lee. Bowling Together? Portrait of a League explores themes of bowling as a practice of belonging in the city, that is both highly performative and social. The panel discussion was chaired by Caroline Knowles.
©2017 Paul Jones
After a short break we continued with Jennifer Good and Lewis Bush, both lecturers in Photojournalism at the London College of Communication. Jennifer’s evocative presentation 9/11: Street photography and terror drew on Freud and the Uncanny to consider how the architecture of New York City was transformed both physically and symbolically by terror during the events of 9/11. It considered how the mode of witnessing that is at the heart of street photography took on a different character under the conditions of trauma. This was followed by Lewis Bush’s Metropolis Now, which records the transformation of London into an ‘investment opportunity’. Now a city of demolition, cranes, and glittering new high rises, the double exposures also record the experience of feeling increasingly alienated from a city which was once home. The panel discussion was chaired by Paul Halliday.
After lunch, we introduced two speakers from the Urban Photographers Association. Laura Cuch talked about Spiritual Flavours, a collaborative arts project with members of different faith communities. 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, in particular that which is related to food, cooking and eating. Staying with the theme of tradition, 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. The panel discussion was chaired by Anita Strasser.
The last panel introduced speakers from London Independent Photography. Mo Greig’s presentation 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 Romania in and outside the UK and found the rhetoric completely untrue. Finally, 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. It is a 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. The panel discussion was chaired by Gill Golding.
Finally, before the wine reception, Abbas Nokhasteh screened the film PARIS 19 – SURVIVAL: Andrés Borda-González, David Kendall, Abbas Nokhasteh, Dr. Moustafa Traoré, OpenVizor, 2011 (PARIS 19: MOBILITY, MEMORY & MIGRATION: http://www.openvizor.com/Content/Index/470). The film is a project bringing together the practice of photography with personal and collective memories from the 19th district of Paris, realised in four films: Faith, Survival, Connection, Distance.
We would like to thank all our presenters and sponsors (and our volunteer Laura Henneke) for a very successful symposium. It was a fully-booked and packed out event with very diverse, insightful and thought-provoking presentations and discussions that addressed how image making can support our understanding of some of the complexities associated with contemporary urban life. Due to the success of the event, we hope to make this into an annual event. For more information: engaginginurbanimagemaking.wordpress.com