CFP: Photo: Science. Photography and Scientific Discourses

CFP: Photo: Science. Photography and Scientific Discourses / CFP: Photo: Science. Fotografie a diskurzy vědy

Place Prague, Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Husova 4, CZECH REPUBLIC
Organizer Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
More info

Photography Research Centre at the IAH CAS is organising a conference "Photo: Science. Photography and Scientific Discourses," which will take place on 17–19 September 2020 in Prague. We welcome proposals until 28 February 2020, e-mail address

Photography is a linchpin of the cognitive, imaginative and social potential of modern man. As a causal and mechanical image, as a reproduction technique, or as an extension of the visual senses, from its very outset, it fuelled key social changes, influenced the approaches to learning, interpretation, self-reflection and memory, and made major inroads into the system of art and ways in which various art genres and the media functioned. Thanks to photography, the paradoxical dichotomy between truth and manipulation became a leitmotiv of the 20th century: and photography shapes the further development of science, art and communication to this day. Photography is one of the tools with which we approach the world and talk about it. As such, it is, first and foremost, a medium, a carrier of information about things and phenomena. Yet its own establishment, in the sense of the photograph as an autonomous image or phenomenon characterized by a stable identity, history and theory, is far more complex. In the field of aesthetics, catachresis is a frequent topic of discussion. This is no coincidence. The radical polarization with which we approach photography (art/craft, art/documentary, truth/manipulation, etc.) gives rise to its perennial subordination to ingrained interpretation mechanisms which, however, were created for other types of image and originated in different methodological contexts. The results are, on the one hand, the distortion of photography, which is genuinely atypical when compared with the four remaining image types (painting, drawing, graphic art and collage), and on the other, the dissonance intrinsic to the way we address it in various situations. We still talk about “photography”, but it always takes on a slightly different and specific meaning.

This conference is organized by The Photography Research Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences. It is the first in a series of interdisciplinary sessions that we would like to continue into in the future. Our objective is to start from photography, from its own existence, and to study it as an autonomous entity. These efforts are closely related to what we understand as “material turn”, a burgeoning interest in photographs as such that can be observed both in the humanities (one example is photography as a subject of anthropological research) and natural sciences (i.e. the aesthetic parameters of scientific photography). The history of art, the various branches of visual culture studies, sociology, general history and speculative disciplines such as philosophy and aesthetics have dedicated considerable energy to photography – and in the long term at that. Photography is similarly well-anchored in the field of the natural sciences, albeit more at the level of applied research. The contrasting influences coming to bear on photography from the individual fields and branches are, nonetheless, only matters for speculation. Our goal is thus to encompass the whole spectrum of relations and contexts surrounding photography, predominantly from its own perspective. In the case of aesthetics, this might mean, for example, a deliberate reflection of photography as a process (not an object), while in the natural sciences it might involve taking into account a particular use of photography in the context of the history of science.

The individual discussion sections will centre upon three basic clusters of themes; the issues listed are illustrative to a greater or lesser extent. The organisers welcome contributions devoted to particular subjects. Our objective is not to generalize or produce new, “universalistic” theories of the photographic image. We are working with the assumption that the approaches of sociology, anthropology, art history, general history and the natural sciences may be radically different, yet inspirational and enriching; a stimulus that we would like to pass on to these disciplines.

For more details see the website.