The ‘Public Life’ of Photographs

May 9 – 11
Ryerson Image Centre


The Ryerson Image Centre’s symposium entitled “The ‘Public Life’ of Photographs” analyzes the dissemination of photographic images from the nineteenth century to the present.

The reproducibility of a photograph largely determines how it is used, shared, and made accessible. While the advent of the Internet has increased the number of channels through which images can be accessed and shared, the circulation of photographs has been made possible by a variety of networks and media: the characteristic ubiquity and mobility of the photographic medium have always been necessary for illustration and the spread of visual information; exhibitions and publications have determined the artistic and cultural recognition of the medium; and artists have found a source of inspiration through the re-use and the re-appropriation of past photographs. The dissemination of photographs is a topic that invites scholarship from diverse disciplines. Photography can perform a wide range of functions: it can be a vehicle of information, an instrument of ideology, a means of scientific exploration, and an artistic medium. The flexible nature of photography and its use within many different contexts demand a wide scholarly approach; this conference will bring together experts in the history of photography, art history, philosophy, and visual culture.

The symposium is divided into four panel discussions: “Photography in Public Narratives” analyzes photography’s role in the cultural construction of memory and ideology; “Market and Exhibitions of Photography” demonstrates how economic exchanges have played a key role in the mobility of the photographic image and examines how photographic exhibitions, whether in museums or less traditional venues, have played a major role in the circulation of photographic images; “Photographs in Print” investigates how the press has participated in disseminating information and opinions through the use of photography; and “Public Photographs in Art”  focuses on how the dissemination of photographs has helped artists gain recognition.

The symposium brought together 15 internationally renowned scholars and curators, from Canada, France, the United States, Germany, England, and New Zealand, during a three-day symposium (May 9 to 11, 2013) at the Ryerson Image Centre, Ryerson University.
“The ‘Public Life’ of Photographs”  attracted a broad audience made up of students, scholars, faculty, artists, curators, collectors, practitioners, the arts community, and the general public.

Get the flash player here:

Ryerson Image Centre
Eaton Lecture Theatre (RCC204) – Rogers Communications Centre
33 Gould St
Toronto, ON M5B 2K3
Jeudi 9 mai de 18h à 19h30
Vendredi 10 et samedi 11 mai de 9h à 17h30 (pause déjeuner de 12h30 à 14h)
Entrée libre.

French participants

Nathalie Boulouch is lecturer in History of Art at Rennes 2 University. She is the Vice-President of the Société française de Photographie (French Society of Photography) in Paris, France, which holds the most important historical photographic collections in the world. She is a renowned specialist in the history of colour photography and has curated numerous exhibitions on the subject. In 2005, she was awarded a two-year research grant by the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), France.

André Gunthert is associate professor at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and director of the Laboratory for Contemporary Visual History (Laboratoire d’histoire visuelle contemporaine – Lhivic). In 1996, he founded the peer-reviewed journal Études photographiques and in 2009 the first scientific social media initiative Culture Visuelle. He has written many articles and books on the history of visual culture.

Thierry Gervais is an assistant professor at Ryerson University, Toronto and Head of Research at the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC). He received his PhD from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris) in 2007. He teaches history of photography and is pursuing research about the use of photography in magazines and the first photo-reporters. He is the editor in chief of Études photographiques and the author of La photographie. Histoire, technique, presse, art (with Gaëlle Morel). He was co-curator of the exhibitions “L’Événement : les images comme acteurs de l’histoire” (Jeu de Paume, Paris, Winter 2007) and “Léon Gimpel. Les audaces d’un photographe” (Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Spring 2008). He organized the symposium “About Photographic Collections: Definitions, Descriptions, Access” at the RIC in January 2012 and he is now curating the conference “The ‘Public Life’ of Photographs” (RIC, May 9-11, 2013). He is also currently working on a book about photographic illustration and the birth of spectacular information.


Lead sponsor

Lead sponsor

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