Read about our most recent event: Image and Peace – Photography (3 May)

On 3rd May, the Hub was pleased to host a presentation by its own members Dr Frank Moller and Dr Rasmus Bellmer. Frank and Rasmus were joined by Dr Tiffany Fairey (KCL) and Ana-Catarina Pinho (NFS/USW) to discuss the core role of photography and its relationship to building and sustaining peace.

Frank and Rasmus opened the discussion with an introduction to their network, Image and Peace. According to Frank, the network seeks to promote “active looking” alongside “active listening” initiatives in civic spaces. Rasmus went on to state that from the outset, Image and Peace has focused on broadening perspectives on peace images to include participatory and artistic approaches. This leads onto what Tiffany described as a strong bias within the existing literature towards professionally driven forms of image making. Like Frank and Rasmus, Tiffany is keen to turn the focus towards community engaged work and is interested in the “ethics, limits and risks of peace photography”. In areas where peace is not taken for granted, there exists “an urgent need to cultivate and nurture” the concept and this can be achieved, in part, through photography. That said, community-focused photography projects are difficult to research thanks to their position beneath the academic radar, their small scale and a lack of appreciation for their originality. Tiffany continued to set out the important distinction between explicit and implicit peace photography as a means for conflict transformation. Tiffany said, “the practitioners I work with, some may openly label their work as ‘peace photography’, while others wouldn’t.”

Tiffany then proceeded to describe several peacebuilding initiatives in Mexico, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Nepal and Columbia that use participatory visual methods. These case studies show the extent to which photography allows citizens to regain a sense of territorial identity and pride. Tiffany said, “building on Frank’s theory, I am interested in how photography not only depicts peace, but actually nurtures and shapes it…the other key thing in relation to change is not to romanticise the possibilities for peace photography, but also to recognise the risks”.

Ana-Catarina began with an explanation that as someone without a first-hand experience of conflict, she had to first, consider what it means to exist peacefully. This was necessary, she argued, because without a sufficient grounding, it would be impossible as a researcher to explore the relationship between peace and photography. Ana-Catarina’s research is focused on the “appropriation and discursive potential of images”. She went on to explain that “imagination and a fictional approach [to photography] is probably a productive way of engaging with our reality…and creates an opportunity to consider images as open, rather than closed in meaning”. This is significant because the existence of an open meaning to images creates a space for civilian participation and the sense of territorial identity and pride can develop and thrive. Ana-Catarina said, “I like to consider the archival approach to images as performative because it expands on the image’s previous meanings.”

We thank Frank, Rasmus, Tiffany and Ana-Catarina for their time and look forward to hosting more online events in the weeks and months to come!

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