Writing in Photohistory

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Required Reading and Looking


Preparation for the day Bring ONE caption for an image, no more than 50 words and post it on wiki page.


There are so many ways to write, and reasons for writing, photohistory. This day-long Research Methods segment will address the many varied things you might find yourself doing in the context of writing in photohistory. Below you will find a list of the sorts of writing you will be expected to do if you work in photographic history, in the museum, in a gallery or in a library:

  • academic essay (for academic journals or MA, MPhil or Phd assessments)
  • review of a book for an academic journal
  • critique of an exhibition
  • condition report of photographic items, or collection descriptions
  • bids for national and international funding agencies
  • project proposals, for research, exhibitions, undertaking work on a collection
  • wall panels and wall labels for exhibitions
  • catalogue essays for exhibitions
  • articles for popular journals or newspapers

There are research methods appropriate to each one of these writing tasks, and many methods that can be shared. You can find out different things by researching the material in different ways.

Optional Exercises

1. For instance, you could begin research on a photographer like Roger Fenton by looking up in the British Library Catalogue, Roger Fenton. If you type Roger Fenton into the main search, you get back numerous entries, images and journal articles. In the search result for catalogue record, you find the title "All the Mighty World". This looks promising, but how do you know that the book is any good? In the entry journal articles below the catalogue records, you see that several reviews have been written of this book. Some of the reviews might be available via JSTOR, some might not. It could give you a quick summary of the contents of the book. Also, you could, via the Library Services Home page, search in the Databases for Times, and search the newspapers for reviews of the show and book by typing in the title and date of the book or exhibition. These are free, you will notice, and many of the journal reviews are not.


Today you will complete an exercise in exhibition research and writing. As you know, writing a book is very different from creating an exhibition. This exercise will help you to relate what is written in books with how the same information might be turned into a narrative aimed at gallery visitors.

This exercise will be amended nearer the time. 1. In the book the images are grouped into sections which have titles. You are to choose one and write an introduction to the section, as if it were the wall panel in the exhibition. Please keep track of the sources you used to research your wall panel, and load it up to your wiki page.

2. Choose two images or two photographers from Roger Taylor's book, and think about what you would write as a caption for this image/photographer. Write one of these before you come to the session. One will be written during the afternoon session. Again please keep notes on the reading and research you did, and load up the one written citation to your wiki page.

Colin Harding and Kelley Wilder will join your colleagues in giving you feedback on your research and writing.

Further Reading

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