Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC) at the University of the Arts London

Submitting Institution

University of the Arts London

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Researchers at the Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC) study the practice and products of photography in terms of both artistic importance and social relevance, recognising photography's many roles including its presence in: the art world; reportage; autobiographical practice; and in social and political education. This case study demonstrates PARC's impact on cultural life via the production of work and curatorial practice, bringing new insights, challenging assumptions, and raising awareness of the role of photographic practice in the public realm.

Underpinning research

The Centre's underpinning research is represented by work undertaken at UAL by Professors Val Williams (PARC Director) and Tom Hunter, Brigitte Lardinois (PARC Deputy Director), Jananne Al-Ani (Research Fellow), and Paul Lowe (Course Director, MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography). Shared research strands include: the history and culture of photography; photojournalism; the documentation of war and conflict; visualization of under-represented groups and issues; social and political relevance of photography; and an exploration of the boundaries between documentation and fiction.

Williams' work on the history and practice of photography in Britain has exposed previously under researched histories. Martin Parr: Photographic Works, Barbican (2002) was the first exhibition to assess Parr's photographs as a complete body of work. It was threaded with a detailed narrative of Parr's personal and professional history and set within the broader context of British post-1970 photography. How We Are: Photographing Britain, Tate Britain (2007), with Susan Bright, provided a structure, rationale and argument for the historical development of British photography, and exhibited previously unpublished works including vernacular photographs and photographs, of and by, minority communities. Daniel Meadows: Early Photographic Works, 1972-1987, National Media Museum (2011), investigated Meadows' work from the early 1970s, placed his photographic practice in a cultural and social context, examining the ways in which the counterculture, contemporary media and broadcasting, and changes in photographic practice, influenced and directed his career.

Lardinois' work in the area of photojournalism has made a significant contribution to the understanding of this complex practice, which straddles fine art, documentary and commercial work. Magnum Magnum, Portrait of Magnum at its 60th Anniversary (2007) provided insights into this important photographers' collective, examining its formation, development and the methodologies of its members. Lardinois worked as head of Magnum's cultural department (1995-2006), and this proximity to the organisation enabled her to reveal underlying structures and relationships in a way not previously attempted. In a similar way, Lowe's research on the ethics of photojournalism and photographic representation of situations of human crisis, conflict and suffering, is set against the background of his professional photography practice as a Magnum photographer, including coverage of famine in Africa, the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the destruction of Grozny. In 2005 he published Bosnians, featuring his documentation of the war in Sarajevo together with his photographs taken during the aftermath of the war, juxtaposed with contextual texts. The publication counter-poses the atrocities of war against the humanity of the survivors and creates a more balanced view of a civilian population under siege. Lowe's chapter in Picturing Atrocity (2012) investigates whether images of atrocity that do not depict the act itself but rather resonate around it can be more effective than more graphic photographs.

Al-Ani's body of film and video work The Guide and Flock (2008), Excavators (2010), Shadow Sites I and II (2010 and 2011) and Groundworks I-V (2013) originated during her AHRC Fellowship The Aesthetics of Disappearance: A Land Without People (2007-2010). Here Al-Ani examined the relationship between film and photography and 20th century military conflict, exploring the physical evidence of atrocity and genocide, and the disappearance of bodies in the landscapes of the Middle East. Her work is influenced by the way in which historical visual material (the archive) informs understanding and representation of the present, and investigates how the tension between documentary and fiction can be resolved in a work of art.

Hunter uses photography to explore the boundaries between staged and documentary photography and film, seeking to challenge social stereotypes and investigate the communities and environments of the under-represented and overlooked, often in relation to his own east London community. His meticulously researched and composed images elevate and draw attention to the `ordinary', address social stereotypes, and questions the idea of the unmediated within documentary practice. He is the only photographer to receive a major commission and photography show at the National Gallery for Living in Hell and Other Stories (2005). Paintings by artists including Sebastiano del Piombo, Peter Paul Rubens, Nicolas Poussin and Ludovico Carracci were used as a point of departure to stage tableaux of contemporary London life as noted from news reports in the Hackney Gazette. His film, A Palace for Us (2010), continues the navigation of the boundaries between fine art and documentary, countering preconceptions of the inner city council estate, examining the history of social housing through personal tales from the Woodberry Down Estate in Hackney, and giving a positive voice to the residents.

References to the research

Sample of underpinning research indicative of the body of work and associated awards:

1. Al-Ani, J. (2011) Shadow Sites II [Artefact]. Abraaj Capital Art Prize Exhibition. 16-19 March 2011. Awarded the Abraaj Capital Art Prize. Listed in REF2.

2. Hunter, T. (2005) Living in Hell and Other Stories [Exhibition]. London: National Gallery. 7 December 2005-12 March 2006. Only photographer to receive a major commission and photography show at the National Gallery. UAL on request.

3. Hunter, T. (2010) A Palace for Us [Artefact]. London: Serpentine Gallery. 8 December 2010- 20 January 2011. Listed in REF2.

4. Lardinois, B. (2007) Magnum Magnum, Portrait of Magnum at Its 60th Anniversary [Book]. London: Thames and Hudson. UAL on request.

5. Lowe, P. (2012) Picturing the Perpetrator [Book chapter]. In: Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis, eds. Batchen, G. Gidley, M. Miller, N. K. & Prosser, J. London: Reaktion Books. Listed in REF2.


6. Williams, V. (2011) Daniel Meadows: early photographic works [Exhibition]. Bradford: National Media Museum, 30 September 2011-19 February 2012. Part of Bradford's Ways of Looking photography festival. Included 250 works. Listed in REF2.

7. Williams, V. (2011) Daniel Meadows: edited photographs from the 70s and 80s [Book]. Brighton, UK: Photoworks. Listed in REF2

• UAL, PI: Williams, V. The New British Photography 1967-1981 (01/2006-08/2008) £79,301. AHRC.

• UAL, PI: Al-Ani, J. The Aesthetics of Disappearance; A Land Without People (05/2007 - 04/2010) £218,941. AHRC.

Details of the impact

The significance and reach of impact on cultural life is evidenced by audience and publication figures, widespread media coverage, awards, commissions, third party funding, prestigious partnerships and collaborations, and acquisition of created work and archives by major institutions. The ability of the work to raise awareness of socio-economic and political issues is demonstrated by collaborations with the independent Post-Conflict Research Center, Sarajevo, and Age UK, Hackney. Work has also significantly influenced policy and practice at Save the Children, UK.

The Daniel Meadows project was produced in partnership with, and funded by the National Media Museum (NMM), Bradford; Ffotogallery, Cardiff; Birmingham Central Libraries; and Photoworks UK. In keeping with Williams' previous research, taking work of photographers out into a wider critical and public sphere, this was Meadows' first solo show, including a broad span of projects, many of which were unknown to the photographic community, the museum establishment or the wider public. `Together Val Williams and Daniel Meadows have brought to light the photographer's incredible archive of prints and negatives, along with ephemera and audio recordings. They have unearthed unpublished and sometimes forgotten treasures which add to a remarkable document — a dramatic, moving and empathetic evocation of a recognisable, yet increasingly alien era.' (NMM Press Release). The exhibition was seen by an audience of nearly 40,000 at the National Media Museum, including two sell-out events at which Meadows spoke. The exhibition and the accompanying publication Daniel Meadows: Edited Photographs from the 70's and 80's received considerable press attention, including a feature in the FT Magazine `Daniel Meadows' images of working-class communities in 1970s Britain bear witness to the reinvention of the craft and purpose of photography'. The publication was one of The Guardian's Photography Books of the Year 2011.

Magnum Magnum (Lardinois) has found a worldwide audience. Its reach is evidenced by sales figures for the publication, with in excess of 135,000 being sold since publication in November 2007. There are four different editions in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Korean and Russian. Lardinois ongoing engagement with Magnum and its photographers resulted in the 2009 publication Eve Arnold's People, the first book on Eve Arnold (a Magnum photographer since 1951) to be edited by anyone other than the artist. After Arnold's death in 2012 Lardinois curated All About Eve at Art Sensus, London. A demonstration of reach is given by widespread media attention given to the exhibition including five star reviews in the Evening Standard and Time Out; coverage in The Guardian, The Independent, FT Magazine, and Culture 24; BBC 3's Nightwaves; and BBC 4's Today programme reporting from the gallery.

Hunter's film A Palace for Us (2010) was commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery (as part of their Skills Exchange project) in collaboration with Age UK Hackney and Goldsmiths, to highlight issues in relation to social housing and break down stereotypes in relation to the residents of the estate. Media coverage included the following: `Hunter's film is not a rant, but a moving homage to lives and memories that today are obliterated by harsh and violent caricatures of the white working class.' (Jonathan Jones, The Guardian). The film was shown over a six-week period at the Serpentine Gallery, London (attracting an audience of 15,000). Further commissions and projects undertaken by Hunter, often representing communities, traditions and identities in a new light include: Flashback (2009) for the Museum of London; Unheralded Stories (2010) funded by the Purdy Hicks Gallery; Punch Professors for the V&A (2012), which attracted more than 165,000 visitors at the Museum of Childhood and featured on the BBC's Culture Show and BBC News; and Midsummer Night's Dream for the Royal Shakespeare Company (2012). Findings (2013) was the first photographic commission by GRAIN the new hub and network for photography at the new Library of Birmingham, for which Hunter was felt to be the `ideal choice' due to his abilty to produce critical engaging work whilst retaining historical reference. The project resulted in 50 images that explored places and space in two neighbouring areas of Birmingham. Exhibited in Birmingham City Centre, Findings was seen by an estimated 1.4 million people (Source: GRAIN), and media coverage including The Sunday Times, the Birmingham Post and RPS Journal.

Lowe's expertise in the area of ethics of photojournalism were utilised as part of a 2008 Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Save the Children. The project resulted in the development of research-informed guidelines for the commissioning and use of photographic images, which aimed to make Save the Children's future commissioning and use of visual imagery as ethical as possible. These guidelines now inform the ethical commissioning, collection, and utilisation of images by Save the Children UK. In 2010 Lowe was commissioned by the Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) in Sarajevo to undertake work for Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage (2009), investigating individuals who had rescued people facing genocide via photography and narrative. The rescuers came from different countries and times including Germany, Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia-Herzegovina (Lowe's contribution). The aim was to heightened awareness and understanding of the presence of rescuer behaviour during genocide or mass violence, and encourage social healing and reconciliation through positive narratives. The work was exhibited within Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of a program to promote peace, reconciliation and genocide prevention by the PCRC, and has been exhibited in Europe, Australia and the US.

In 2011 Al-Ani was one of five artists to be awarded the Abraaj Capital Art Prize worth $120,000 for the production of Shadow Site II. Her film and video work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including: 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012), Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012), Victoria and Albert Museum (2012), Sharjah Biennial 11, UAE (2013), 13th Istanbul Biennial (2013) and featured in The Future of Promise (2011) the Venice Biennale's first pan-Arab exhibition of contemporary art. Major solo exhibitions of her work have been held at Darat al Funun, Jordan (2010), the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (2012) and the Beirut Art Center (2013). Work has also been funded by the Arts Council England and the Young Arab Theatre Fund. A documentary by Pia Getty Films, Axis of Light: Contemporary Art from the Arab World and Iran (2011), includes an in depth interview with Al-Ani and extracts from her work including Shadow Site I and II. It was awarded Best Feature Documentary at the Madrid Film Festival (2012), and was Remi Winner at the Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival (2012).

Impact is also demonstrated on the field of photography and collecting more generally. In January 2013 Williams' archive became part of the photographic holdings at the new Birmingham Library. Hunter's Living in Hell and Other Stories (2005) resulted in acquisition of Hunter's work by the National Gallery, where it is now on permanent display. Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present (2012), the National Gallery's first ever group photography and painting show, included Hunter's The Death of Coltelli which was acquired for The Wilson Centre for Photography. Hunter's Punch Professors was acquired by the V&A adding a contemporary component to their existing archive of Punch photography. Al-Ani's The Guide and Flock are in the Darat al Funun collection in Jordan; Shadow Site I is part of the Arts Council England Collection and the collection of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; and Shadow Site II is part of the Abraaj Capital Collection, Dubai; the collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création, Paris; and four stills from the film are in the V&A collection.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Impact on cultural life:

  1. Statement from National Media Museum Bradford. UAL on request.
  2. FT Magazine article in relation to Daniel Meadows exhibition and book at
  3. Press coverage in relation to All About Eve
  4. Abraaj Capital Art Prize
  5. Axis of Light
  6. Val Williams' archive to Library of Birmingham.
  7. Findings: Photographs of Birmingham's Colmore Business District and Jewellery Quarter by Tom Hunter. Evaluation report by GRAIN August 2013. UAL on request.

Raising awareness, challenging assumptions, and impact on policy and practice:

  1. A Palace for Us in The Guardian at
  2. Goldsmith's University of London Report on the Serpentine Gallery Project: Skills Exchange: Urban Transformation and the Politics of Care by Alison Rooke. UAL on request.
  3. Statement from Save the Children UK. UAL on request.