WORKSHOP : CONCEPTS, RESOURCES & APPROACHES FOR RESEARCHING PHOTOGRAPHIC CULTURES with SIMON SOON
PHOTOGRAPHY WRITING WORKSHOP
20-21 July 2019 / HIKAYAT, GEORGE TOWN, PENANG
Registration closes 30 June 2019
This workshop offers participants the basic building blocks to explore photographic cultures. The camera is often seen as an image-capturing technology that has over time serves a series of purposes. When these purposes are linked together in a chronology, they form a history of photography. Yet, photographs are widely circulated. The camera’s availability in different parts of the world meant that what other cultures saw in this technology and recognised as valuable in the photographic image, could be very different from the standard narrative of photography history.
Consider how photographs of the royal family circulates across Thailand, not simply as propaganda but also as spiritual icons where a different set of beliefs and practices are invested in the use of the photography. Or closer to home, observe how hierarchy and accountability is visualised through the assembly of passport photos of personnels in the Malaysian Civil Service into a ‘carta organisasi’. What interesting things, does this collage of photo-portraits into a workplace family tree has to say about a larger model-of-authority that is reproduced down to the smallest government agency?
Paying attention to photographic cultures offer us a way to think about power and the way these are negotiated through the photographic image. What story can be learned from the private album of a Malay transgender, who used studio portraits to document her transition from male to female in 1950s Malaya?
WHO IS THIS WORKSHOP MOST SUITED FOR?
Writers interested in research, retired-school teachers involved in heritage work, aspiring novelist grappling with visual rhetoric, historians haunted by images, school teachers searching for new teaching forms,teenage old souls drowned in nostalgia, students who want more after finishing their family-tree school assignment, millennials trying to make sense of this inchoate past, nerds and trolls into public history, a person who wants to explore the relationship between image and text, librarians/archivists looking for public programmes ideas.
in partnership with
The photographs do not just offer evidence, they are intimate staging of a body in transformation, and not the nation, community, religion or race. Seen in the context of Merdeka, how does it complicate what we understand of independence?
We might ask - is there a photographic culture of BERSIH protest? or Special Branch intelligence-gathering method? Or distributing benediction through tourist souvenirs of religious sites? Or honouring guru-lineage in a wayang troupe? Or establishing cultic shrine to an alternative history of Indonesia?
Using a combination of seminar-style talk, discussion and mini-exercise, the workshop invites participants to think through some of these questions as well as some of the conceptual tools to begin researching on photographic cultures. The workshop covers concepts [what are the research motivations and horizons, historical thinking], approaches [visual analysis, research methods, case studies, types of output] and resources [physical and digital collections; references]. Participants are expected to produce a written piece of 400-600 writing that demonstrate basic understanding of the many ways that photography gains new meaning and value within a community.
Simon Soon teaches art history and visual culture at the Visual Art Program, Cultural Centre, University of Malaya. He is an editorial member of SOUTHEAST OF NOW: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art. He is also a team member of Malaysia Design Archive. His has a strong interest in the use of photographic image in print culture as well as how photographic technologies gains new value in ritual practices. He spends too much time trawling the internet.