Archive Practices and the Photographic Medium

Oleksandra Osadcha, Ph.D.

This research project has three objectives. The first is to identify photography’s role in the preservation activities and public programmes of research institutes. The second is to explore the representational regimes in a research institute through the lens of photography archives. The final aim is to better understand the specificity of archive photography’s various material forms, such as prints, digital files and ‘marginal’ and ‘oppressed’ forms like negatives and slides, as well as their circulation in museum practices. Almost since its very invention, photography has been an essential tool for documenting, accounting and preserving. Yet photographic documents as ‘non-pieces’ often appear at the margins of research: they are valued only for their ability to provide information on the art object they feature. However, they are important as parts of the research ecosystem, allowing us to outline the inner and public hierarchies of archives and their multifaceted relationship with photography’s identity. The project focuses in particular on the materiality of photographs: it considers them as objects in themselves, taking into consideration not only the way in which negatives are treated in the preservation routine, but also the circulation of images and the influence the camera has on the interpretation and discussion of photographs. Once the deceptive mask of photographic realism is removed, we can observe the dynamics and politics of photography within the context of research and archival practices.

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