Call for Papers: Darkrooms and Representations: Histories of Photography, Film and Exploration Conference

This conference will take place 2 - 3 April 2020, at the National Maritime Museum. Call for papers deadline: 4 October 2019

Keynote Speakers

Geir Kløver (Director, The Fram Museum), Dr Lawrence Napper (Senior Lecturer, King’s College London), Bryony Dixon (Curator of Silent Film, British Film Institute)

Call for Papers

The role of photography and film has often been relegated to that of illustration, yet its uses - as a visual record, in scientific research, education and travelogues – have been varied and at times ingenious.

From experimentation with technologies in extreme environments (telephoto lenses, glass plate negatives, flashlight photography, chrono-photography, photomicrography, cinematography) to the practices that have emerged through ethnographic studies, meteorology, astronomy, oceanology, cartography and the documentation of wildlife, the mediation of photography and film has made otherwise inaccessible geographies visible.

Yet, this ‘window’ on to the world is constructed, it is made using materials and techniques which tell a story: from a physical trace of the environment to a record of scientific and cultural practices.

This interdisciplinary conference examines the history of maritime exploration through film, photography and photographers, scientific techniques, artistic practices and in the mediation and display of museum collections for exhibition: from photographic materials and technologies to the darkroom practices that shape visual representations and underpin or counter voyage narratives.

Papers are sought on the histories, theories and philosophies of photography, film and audio-visual forms which intersect with narratives of exploration: its politics, ideologies (gender, class, imperialism) their subversion and subtexts through to its use in educational and entertainment forms both past and present. 

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Experiments and innovations in technology and representation
  • Analogue formats and their digital simulacra
  • Black and white/ colour photography
  • Editing techniques (superimposition, masking, colouring images, digital media)
  • Photography, film and art in the social and cultural practices of expeditions
  • The work of amateur and professional photographers
  • Photography and film as evidence, its authenticity and/or manipulation
  • Material records: can scratches, distortions, detritus be read as a record of the making, use and storage of images?
  • Historical, political and cultural uses of expedition photography and film
  • Historiography: photographs as illustration and/or counterpoint to official narratives
  • Magic lantern slide lectures (scripts, images, performance)
  • Photojournalism; postcards, tourism, mementos, portrait and/or memorial photographs
  • The curation of photographic exhibitions, film programmes and archives
  • Documentary and fiction films; the fantastic in nonfiction film
  • Photography and film in the temporality and narratives of the Anthropocene

There is a history of the materials, technologies and practices that lie beneath the surface of each image and its making. For an account of how cameras and photographic materials should work, we can consult technical handbooks. However, in extreme environments - characterised by excessive temperatures, humidity, light and darkness - such technologies sometimes stop working and require the practical and innovative adaptations of explorers, researchers and artists.

This call for papers welcomes presentations from scholars, curators and collection managers alongside scientific researchers and artists who have worked on Antarctic and Arctic Residences, wildlife, documentary filmmakers and archivists who engage with the questions of controlled storage environments, researcher access, the exhibition of materials and the making of their digital simulacra.

How to apply

Deadline for submissions: 4 October 2019

Abstracts (c.250words) and a short biographical note (c.150words) can be sent to Dr Liz Watkins ( no later than 4 October 2019.

Accepted papers will be notified by 1 November 2019.

If you have any questions about the conference please contact and Lizelle de Jager