Un-Making Image Session #4: "Amateur Photography" and the Wife

The 4th session of Un-Making Image takes place at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art. In the context of 'An exhibition with art installations by Susana Mejía, Pamela Rosenkranz, and Anicka Yi', Witte de With invites Sarmad magazine for a talk that investigates the role that gender assumptions have historically played in distinctions between amateur and professional photography. [With the talk,] a publication will be launched which contains writings, images, and archival materials on the subject in a more extensive manner. It will be available for free for the participants at the event.

Just like any other, the history of photography is not entirely innocent. It is thoroughly intertwined with industrialisation, labour, capitalism, and domesticity. We will look at the practice of photography through the viewpoint of its very device – the camera. Mass production and commercialisation of this newly-invented apparatus in the late 19th and early 20th century made it available to everyone, and ‘Amateur Photography’ as a genre was introduced. Its invention is key in understanding how photographic practice has been historically developed, since Amateur Photography has been inherently based on (and reinforces) the constructions of gender; introduced as a primarily ‘feminine’ practice reserved for ladies and children.

The talk will discuss these developments as well as more recent media strategies and visuals in the early 20th century until the 1950s (including significant figures such as the Kodak Girl), which illustrated the female figure as the gazer and not only the subject of the photographs. Additionally, through targeting married women, the promotion of amateur photography contributed to the construction of the nuclear family as the basic social unit, by means of rendering “the wife” as the one in charge of this domestic piece of equipment (camera). The talk aims to start a critical discussion on the development of photography through focusing on so-called ‘amateur’ photography’s basis on gender assumptions.

Speakers: Talks are given by Sarmad editors: Alireza Abbasy, Golnar Abbasi

* This project is supported by Gemente Rotterdam (Subsidie Visuele Kunsten) and Stad in de Maak. This event is hosted by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art.