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

25 February 2014

Durham University and Durham Light Infantry Museum and 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 aim of this conference is to examine 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.

We seek papers that address 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. We invite scholars in a range of disciplines to reflect 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. Together, we endeavour to develop alternative methodological frameworks for approaching images of armed conflict, and to shift and expand thinking on the concept of war photography.

A range of historical periods, geographical regions and modes of conflict is encouraged. Participants are invited to propose 20-minute papers on topics related to the theme The Business of War Photography, including but not limited to the following:

  • The photographic companies, entrepreneurs and workers serving markets created as a result of war
  • The requirements of military agencies and their involvement in photographic innovation through funding the development of military imaging technology
  • The role of the state in commissioning, shaping and circulating photographic images, and their relationship with foreign and domestic policy and military strategy
  • The marketing of photographic products and services to servicemen/women and civilians during wartime
  • The production and consumption of photographic merchandise (e.g. souvenirs, postcards)
  • The publication and dissemination of war images in the media, and the role of consumers, editors and advertisers in shaping content
  • The market for art photography deploying military imaging techniques or which critiques the role of photography in modern armed conflict

Submission details

We invite proposals of 300 words with a brief biographical note or one page CV by 1 March 2014. Applicants will be notified by Friday 14 March. Drafts of papers are due for circulation with co-panellists and chairs by Friday 27 June 2014.

It is envisaged that a selection of papers from the conference will be developed for publication as a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal. The conference organisers are currently discussing this possibility with the Editorial Board of the Journal of War & Culture Studies. Although this will not preclude selection to present at the conference, please state if your proposal has been previously published in any form.

Organisers and partners

The Business of War Photography is co-convened by Dr. Tom Allbeson and Pippa Oldfield, Head of Programme at Impressions Gallery and Doctoral Fellow at Durham University. The conference is presented in association with the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture at Durham University, in partnership with Durham Light Infantry Museum and Art Gallery and Impressions Gallery, Bradford.


The conference will be held at Durham University, with opening papers and an evening reception at Durham Light Infantry Museum and 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.

Information for delegates and speakers

Details of delegate fees, venues, and accommodation will be announced by 28 February 2014. Please note that we are unfortunately unable to meet participants’ and speakers’ costs. A limited number of delegate places will be offered to postgraduate attendees at concessionary rates.


Please submit proposals and enquiries to [email protected]

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