PhD: Bindings, Boundaries and Cuts: Relating Agency and Ontology in Photobook Encounters

My doctoral research explores the affect, materiality and social agency of contemporary photobooks. It argues that the ways photobooks engage and direct our responses in encounters, and the conditions of where and how we can engage with them, shape how we understand the medium. Something as simple as a book’s physical dimensions or materials can influence how we look at it, transport it, buy it, hold it, make meaning with it, remember it, store it, catalogue it in a museum or library. Photobooks become real through how we talk about and describe them, as well as how they are physically made and interacted with. Subtle differences in how these encounters are structured can have meaningful consequences for how we understand what a photobook is. By focusing on the multi-sensory and emotional ways photobooks affect us, the thesis portrays the genre as a uniquely interactive form of photographic expression that is not static or permanent, but open-ended, hybrid, plural and mutable. Blending interdisciplinary theoretical approaches including actor-network theory and phenomenology, the research uses the photobook encounter as a site for exploring different forms of knowing and making knowledges.

The research is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through the Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership. The project will complete in early 2021.

Conference presentations
‘Books on places and books from places: an unbalanced equation’ (group presentation), The 2021 Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference, Center for Book Arts / Printed Matter Virtual Art Book Fair, New York, February 2021.
‘Alternative Methodologies in Arts Research’ at Media Culture Heritage (MCH) PGR Research Forum, Newcastle University, 2020.
‘Theorising Encounters with the Contemporary Photobook’, The British, American and French Photobook: Commitment, Memory, Materiality and the Art Market (1900-2019), Maison Française Oxford, March 2019.
‘Towards a Relational Understanding of the Photobook’, World in Flux: Cultural and Media Studies in a Changing World, Kings College London, June 2018.