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

Research & business

View Profile

Miss Vanessa Longden

(email at

‘Sites of Sentiment, Debris and Dislocation: The Photographic Spaces of Francesca Woodman’

My thesis examines Francesca Woodman’s self-representational photography to explore the complex relationship between the body and place. In particular, her staging of abandoned locations highlights the difficulty of making space on the margins of society and holds wider implications for the fields of gender and cultural geography. 

Woodman’s death by suicide at the age of 22has led to a predominantly psycho-biographical approach to her work. But I challenge this reading and its linear teleology by re-situating the artist within the socio-economic context of America in the 1970s and early 1980s, emphasising how Woodman’s images converse with other contemporaries, particularly performance, body, and land artists.

Journal of Historical Sociology

Since 2014, I have been the Assistant Editor of the Journal of Historical Sociology (Wiley Blackwell).

'The Journal of Historical Sociology was founded in 1988 on the conviction that historical and social studies ultimately have a common subject matter and can only benefit from the interchange of ideas and perspectives. Edited by a distinguished international panel of historians, anthropologists, geographers and sociologists, it is both interdisciplinary in approach and innovative in content. As well as refereed articles, the journal presents reviews essays and commentary in its 'Issues and Agendas' section, and aims to provoke discussion and debate.' All enquiries are welcomed.

Research Interests

  • Architecture
  • Cultural Theory
  • Gender theory
  • Material culture
  • Photography
  • Spatial theory

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2015: Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship in Visual Culture:

    Awarded the Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholarship in Visual Culture. The interdisciplinary programme ‘is designed to equip future intellectual leaders with the means to comprehend visual phenomena and to appreciate that many fields of knowledge contribute to the analysis of visual culture.’


Book review

  • Longden, Vanessa (2018). The militant muse: love, war and the women of surrealism by Whitney Chadwick. LSE Review of Books
  • Longden, Vanessa (2017). The Open Book: Stories of Academic Life and Writing or Where We Know Things by Ninna Meier and Charlotte Wegener. LSE Review of Books
  • Longden, Vanessa (2015). Cosmopolitan Sexualities by Ken Plummer. LSE Review of Books
  • Longden, Vanessa (2015). How to Write a Thesis by Umberto Eco. LSE Review of Books

Chapter in book

Conference Paper

  • Longden, Vanessa (2018), Where is Francesca Woodman? Paper given at 'Women, Art and Visibility Conference at Durham University, Women, Art and Visibility Conference. Durham, UK.
  • Longden, Vanessa (2017), Among Woods and Water: Francesca Woodman’s Primal Landscapes. Paper given at Landscapes of Power Symposium at Nottingham University, Landscapes of Power Symposium. Nottingham, UK.
  • Longden, Vanessa (2017), Temples of Dust and Light: A Dialogue between Francesca Woodman and Gordon Matta-Clark. Paper given at Intersections: Interdisciplinary Encounters in the Arts and Beyond, 6th Annual International PG Conference at the University of Glasgow, Intersections: Interdisciplinary Encounters in the Arts and Beyond, 6th Annual International PG Conference. Glasgow, UK.
  • Longden, Vanessa (2016), Returning Home: The Visual Spaces of Francesca Woodman. Paper given at Visual Intersections Conference at Durham University, Visual Intersections. Durham, UK.
  • Longden, Vanessa (2016), There’s No Place like Home: Re-examining Francesca Woodman’s House Series. Paper given at St Cuthbert's Society at Durham University, St. Cuthbert’s Society, Durham University. Durham, UK.
  • Longden, Vanessa (2015), “When you are the camera and the camera is you” Tracing Techno-Feminism through the Woman Photographer. Paper given at the North West Gender Conference at Manchester University, North West Gender Conference. Manchester, UK.
  • Longden, Vanessa (2015), All That Glitters: The Beautiful Freaks of Diane Arbus, 19th Histfest Postgraduate Conference. Lancaster, UK.
  • Longden, Vanessa (2014), Difficult to Digest: The Art of Martin Parr, Mindful Body in the Arts of Eating, International Conference. Florida, USA.
  • Longden, Vanessa (2014), Meetings in Virtual Spaces: Re-examining Francesca Woodman’s Self-Portrait, Strangers, Aliens and Foreigners 6th Global Interdisciplinary Conference. Prague, Czech Republic.
  • Longden, Vanessa (2014), Miss. Recognition: Locating the Illusory Self in Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, Mediated Pasts: Visual Cultures and Collective Memory. Leicester, UK.

Journal Article

Is supervised by