Ph: The Photography Research Network was established in 2010 as a forum for research PhD students working in the field of photography. The diverse interests of the members were reflected and developed in wide-ranging discussions held at The Photographers’ Gallery in London. Members created an opportunity to share their current research and projects in a friendly and supportive atmosphere of intellectual rigour.
The group was awarded an AHRC Student-led Initiatives Grant (Beyond Text Programme, 2010-2011) which facilitated the development of the project Either/And in collaboration with The National Media Museum. This project aimed to create a dialogue around critical and creative issues shaping histories of photography. A dedicated website hosting commissioned material including essays, interviews, images and films, provided a starting point for invited responses from leading thinkers as well as public online discussion. This inclusive approach demonstrates the conviction which unites the activity of Ph as a group: that photography can provide a point of contact between different disciplines, discourses and timeframes and that, by opening a dialogue between them, we might better understand the positions it occupies in society and culture.
The Ph Network meetings and discussions from 2010-2015, and the project Either/And, culminated in the publication of a book, edited by founder members Benedict Burbridge and Annabella Pollen, Photography Reframed: New Visions in Contemporary Photographic Culture was published by Bloomsbury in 2018.
Currently, the second iteration of the Ph Network (2015-2020) is led by a core membership that is more actively concerned with critical practice, including curating and education, whilst still driven by the rigorous scholarship that characterised the focus of the original group. Meetings are now held in various venues, including homes and studios as well as institutions.
In 2018 Ph proposed an exhibition tentatively entitled Photographic Experience of Space. This was to bring together a collection of text-based and visual work, by artists and researchers from the group, to form a dialogue for the visual to meet the spatial in a critical and creative interaction. Following further discussions, and feedback from public facing events, the project has developed into Bridging the Distance which will open in May 2020.
Bridging the Distance responds to the diversity of viewpoints found across the membership of the group as a microcosm of a wider diversity. This approach aims to collapse traditional hierarchies and initiates a levelling of the distinctions between theory and practice. It suggests the power and immediacy of photography to bridge the distances between perspectives. The works will manifest these ideas through studies that span notions of place and interactions, including between environment, portraiture, surveillance and resistance.
The collaborative spirit of the current Ph Network is amplified by a collaboration with the iconic Four Corners in East London, a space for radical filmmaking and photography for nearly half a century. Held in the gallery at Four Corners (May 20th -30th 2020, the10th anniversary of Ph.) the exhibition will include visual and text works from several Ph. members, an archives workshop for young people and a public discussion. We create this space for an open dialogue on photography to invite a bridging of distances. We hope to work with everyone that we can reach through the proposed collaboration. Contributors include experienced, exhibiting practitioners, curators, educators and activists.
Members past and present also continue to pursue individual projects in curating, writing, consultancy, making and educating.
Ph: The Photography Research Network was established and developed by Ben Burbridge and Olga Smith. It is now convened by Andreia Alves de Oliveira, Alexandra Tommasini, Annalisa Sonzogni, Liz J Drew and Gil Pasternak.
2016 to present: Andreia Alves de Oliveira, Alexandra Tommasini, Liz J Drew and Gil Pasternak
2013-2016 Annebella Pollen, Juliet Baillie, and Gil Pasternak
2010-2013 Ben Burbridge and Olga Smith