We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Photography, Survey and the Desire for 'History'


This paper1 explores the idea of photographic survey as a transnational cultural moment. This movement, which was active in various forms between about 1880 and 1920, encouraged local amateur photographers to make records of buildings, customs and curiosities for the benefit of the future. Strongly related to questions of cultural salvage, preservation and national identity, the impulse for photographic recording is found in different forms and intensities across Europe and beyond. However, local endeavours were entangled with more expansive ambitions for photographic efficacy. These ambitions reveal the broader epistemological shaping of these apparently insignificant acts of photography. I explore briefly three moments of transnational articulation in Chicago, Brussels and Dresden, and what happens when we approach these photographic practices on the horizontal axis of the transnational, not simply on the vertical axis of contained ‘national identities.’

Insights Paper