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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

The Business of War Photography Conference

The Business of War Photography: Producing and Consuming Images of Conflict 

Durham University and Durham Light Infantry Museum & Durham Art Gallery, UK

31 July to 1 August 2014

The intersection of photography and war encompasses a broad and complex field. Yet conceptually, “war photography” is often restricted to the activities of photojournalists producing aesthetically compelling images used to humanitarian ends. Scholars have primarily focused on issues of veracity, iconicity, memory, affect and ethics. Insightful though this work is, we lack crucial information and critical reflection on fundamental questions regarding how commercial, tactical and personal factors have shaped the diverse terrain of images arising from all contexts of armed conflict. 

The Business of War Photography conference examined war photography in this expanded sense— that is, as the result of a nexus of pragmatic and strategic transactions and interactions concerning business, militarism and consumption. International speakers, including scholars, curators, picture editors and artists, addressed the ways in which issues of supply and demand have shaped the field of war photography, and how this field has articulated with other forms of industrialised and commercial activity. 

The diverse papers encompassed a range of geographic regions and modes of conflict from the early twentieth century to the present day, and reflected upon the relevance to war photography of commerce, industry, the military and marketing, as well as the role of workers, publishers, politicians, strategists, purchasers and consumers. 

The conference endeavoured to develop alternative methodological frameworks for approaching images of armed conflict, and to shift and expand thinking on the concept of war photography. The conference organisers, Dr Tom Allbeson and Pippa Oldfield, are currently developing a publication that will expand and develop a selection of the papers presented at the conference.

Organisers and partners

The Business of War Photography was co-convened by Dr. Tom Allbeson and Pippa Oldfield, Head of Programme at Impressions Gallery and Doctoral Fellow at Durham University. 

The conference was presented in association with the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture at Durham University, in partnership with Durham Light Infantry Museum & Durham Art Gallery and Impressions Gallery, Bradford. Supported by Royal Historical Society.



The conference was held at Collingwood College, Durham University, with the opening session and an evening reception at Durham Light Infantry Museum & Durham Art Gallery, with the opportunity to view the photographic exhibition The Home Front by Melanie Friend, an Impressions Gallery Touring Exhibition curated by Pippa Oldfield.



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Image credit: 'Tank Rides at Abingdon Air and County Show, Oxfordshire, 3 May 2007 © Melanie Friend/Impressions Gallery