What Photographs Do

The making and remaking of museum cultures

Edited by Elizabeth Edwards and Ella Ravilious

ISBN: 9781800082984

Publication: November 01, 2022

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What are photographs ‘doing’ in museums? Why are some photographs valued and others not? Why are some photographic practices visible and not others? What value systems and hierarchies do they reflect?

What Photographs Do explores how museums are defined through their photographic practices. It focuses not on formal collections of photographs as accessioned objects, be they ‘fine art’ or ‘archival’, but on what might be termed ‘non-collections’: the huge number of photographs that are integral to the workings of museums yet ‘invisible’, existing outside the structures of ‘the collection’. These photographs, however, raise complex and ambiguous questions about the ways in which such accumulations of photographs create the values, hierarchies, histories and knowledge-systems, through multiple, folded and overlapping layers that might be described as the museum’s ecosystem.

These photographic dynamics are studied through the prism of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, an institution with over 150 years engagement with photography’s multifaceted uses and existences in the museum. The book differs from more usual approaches to museum studies in that it presents not only formal essays but short ‘auto-ethnographic’ interventions from museum practitioners, from studio photographers and image managers to conservators and non-photographic curators, who address the significance of both historical and contemporary practices of photography in their work. As such this book offers an extensive and unique range of accounts of what photographs ‘do’ in museums, expanding the critical discourse of both photography and museums.

Elizabeth Edwards is Professor Emerita of Photographic History at De Montfort University, Leicester, and also Honorary Professor in the Department of Anthropology UCL. 

Ella Ravilious is Curator: Architecture and Design in the Art, Architecture, Photography and Design Department at the V&A.  

List of figures
List of contributors
Foreword  - Joanna Norman

Museum Cultures of Photography: An Introduction
Elizabeth Edwards and Ella Ravilious

Part I  Disseminations

1 Little marks of ownership: the introduction and production of museum postcards 1913-1939
Elizabeth Edwards

2 The museum and the image factory: The South Kensington Museum, the Brothers Dalziel, and the making of Victorian museum catalogues
Bethan Stephens

3 The image as asset
Tom Windross

Part II Collections

4 The official museum photographer: Isabel Agnes Cowper
Erika Lederman

5 Photographing the Eltenberg Reliquary
Ken Jackson

6 Photographing theatre and performance
Graham Brandon 

PART III Histories

7 Collecting India: Photographs, pedagogy and power
Divia  Patel

8 The digitised guard books: another history
Steve Woodhouse

PART IV Reworkings

9 Condition report: drawing things together
Simon Fleury

10 K.A.C. Creswell’s photographs of Islamic architecture
Omniya Abdel-Barr

11 Two dimensions among three: Museum photography in the V&A's refurbished cast courts
Angus Patterson

PART V Visibilities

12 A submerged collection: Photographs in the National Art Library, 1853-1977
Ella Ravilious

13 Revitalising research: the fall and rise of the furniture image collection
Kate Hay

PART VI Digital
14 In the photographic studio
Richard Davis 

15 The backs of things
George Eksts

16 Computations and complications: Value systems of institutional photography
Catherine Troiano

Duncan Forbes


Format: Open Access PDF

325 Pages

120 colour illustrations

Copyright: © 2022

ISBN: 9781800082984

Publication: November 01, 2022

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