CFP: Photography Network Virtual Symposium

Photography’s Frameworks
Photography Network Virtual Symposium
October 12–14, 2023

Photography Network’s third annual symposium will be held virtually and hosted jointly with the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. In honor of the UWC’s New Archival Visions Programme—an initiative to activate the university’s archival holdings through research, fellowships, and curatorial projects—this symposium considers the subject of frameworks in the study of photography.

In recent years, “framing” and “reframing” have become buzzwords for describing new approaches to the study of photography, including the 2018 volume Photography Reframed: New Visions in Photographic Culture, the ReFrame project at the Harvard Art Museums launched in 2021, and the ongoing archival initiative, “Framing the Field: Photography’s Histories in American Institutions.” Projects like the Art Institute of Chicago’s 2023 Field Guide to Photography and Media exhibition and catalogue and the recent Vision & Justice initiative encourage reflection on how histories of photography have been constructed and how certain interventions can be made to create a more equitable field moving forward. Such interventions might also draw on “reframing” projects from the global south that interrogate colonial and metropolitan categories and temporal schemas in the history of global photography, such as the 2020 Kronos special issue on “Other Lives of the Image” and the 2019 publication Ambivalent: Photography and Visibility in African History.

This symposium aims to gather these types of initiatives into one space for shared reflection and future collaboration. Using the construction of a “framework” in reference to both conceptual schema and physical structures, we ask how larger patterns of social, ideological, material, economic, and environmental forces have shaped and continue to shape photographs as objects in circulation and in archival repositories. How have past theoretical, methodological, and institutional frameworks structured, and in many instances limited, the field? What work have these frames performed in the creation and interpretation of photographs and their histories? Which frameworks have been overlooked, and what types of interventions can make the most impactful changes?

While papers should seek to address these questions, our definition of “framework” is capacious and inclusive. Proposals might therefore consider critical approaches to frameworks that include:

• Archival: private art collections, public collections (schools, universities, museums, government agencies), informal private holdings, artist collectives, and activist archives (including national liberation, anti-colonial and anti-apartheid collections)
• Colonial, postcolonial and decolonial: state-sponsored photography, anthropological studies, tourist photography, humanitarian photography, documentary discourses
• Cultural: linguistic, religious, or ethnic practices and beliefs
• Dysfunctional: decay or erasure of contexts, allowing for slippage, appropriation, and reinterpretation of photography
• Ethical: displaying, discussing, and teaching certain images; scientific, anthropological, and legal rationales

Submission Information

Photography Network invites proposals across disciplines and a broad range of subjects that reflect the geographic and thematic diversity of the field. Practitioners and scholars at any stage of their careers are welcome to submit their research. We also welcome international scholars but note that the conference will be in English.

The symposium organizers encourage a variety of presentational styles. In addition to proposals for individual, 20-minute papers, we also seek alternative-format presentations (e.g., workshops and roundtables). We will also host a Lightning Round for new research on any topic from students, curators, academics, and practitioners. Applicants may submit up to 2 proposals, provided that one is in an alternative format; you are welcome to apply only to the Lightning Round. Sessions will be organized around accepted submissions, rather than prescribed themes.

To be considered for a panel or alternative-format presentation, please prepare:
(1) a 250-word abstract with a clear indication of format, and
(2) a three-page resume or CV.

To be considered only for the Lightning Round, please prepare:
(1) a 100-word abstract clearly labeled as a Lightning Round proposal and
(2) a three-page resume or CV.

All files should be named “[LAST NAME]–CV” or “[LAST NAME]–ABSTRACT.”

Email completed materials by June 15 to the Photography Network Symposium organizing committee: Katherine Bussard, Patricia Hayes, Josie Johnson, Caroline Riley, and Jessica Stark at

Notifications of accepted proposals will be emailed by July 19. The schedule will be announced by August 1 and the symposium will be held October 12–14, 2023.

Note: All are welcome to apply. Accepted presenters must be Photography Network members in good standing at the time of the symposium. We have a sliding scale membership: $20 (student/unaffiliated), $40 (Affiliated), or $100 (Senior). We also have free need-based memberships. Please visit the Photography Network’s membership page ( for more information on how to join.


Author: Camara Dia Holloway

I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department. Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.

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