Webinar "Photographic realism in the context of documentary photography education in Russia and Sweden"

NB! The event will be held on Zoom. To attend the event please click on the link https://uu-se.zoom.us/j/64633418424

In our project “Photographic realism in the digital media age: Photojournalism and visual literacy in Russia and Sweden”, we analyse educational discourses and practices at photojournalism and documentary photography schools in Russia and Sweden. Documentary photography and photojournalism educational programs constitute spaces where future professional photographers, teachers and practicing photographers meet. It is in this space that discourses and practices around what it means to visually document reality take shape, where objectivity, truth, and photographic realism are defined, and where “photographic selves” are formed and articulated. This space becomes an increasingly relevant object of analysis due to the coming of widely discussed “post-truth” era, with the widespread mistrust in facts and elites, and challenges to the journalistic and documentary photography’s ideals of realism and objectivity.

In Russia, we focus at the programs by the Department of Photojournalism and Media Technologies at Lomonosov Moscow State University, and Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia. In Sweden, programs at Nordic Photography School (Biskops-Arnö), and Mid-Sweden University are our primary objects of analysis. The project is based on interviews with the program and course leaders, focus groups with students, observations of educational and examination moments, and descriptions of the courses and course literature. By applying a comparative perspective, we focus on the macro-social context in which pedagogics is developing as a discursive phenomenon. We are also interested in the heterogeneity of discourses on documentation of social reality and photographic realism within one and same national culture of photography education.

Despite differences in the political and cultural contexts of the two countries, our informants in both Russia and Sweden recognize universal problems that documentary photographers and photojournalists face today. Both students and teachers highlight the importance of education when it comes to acquiring horizontal connections that they find important both for the future team projects and potential transits between the fields of art and journalism (dictated by either personal interest or economic pressure). We have paid attention to establishment of different forms and levels of dialogue at the studied sites, where within partnership learning communities (Healey et al. 2014) students can be trained in how to communicate with the photographed subjects, other actors engaged in production and distribution of photography, and with their audiences. One observation, valid for both national contexts, is that generic competences when it comes to ‘seeing’ is valued as more important than technology when it comes to entering today’s digital, multi-platform and multimedia landscape.

Patrik Åker is Associate Professor in Media and Communication Studies at Södertörn University, Stockholm. His research interests include visual communication, journalism, historical perspectives on media, and cultural assumptions about media technologies. He is currently heading the project “Photographic realism in the digital media age” funded by the Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies (2018-2020).

Liudmila Voronova is a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Södertörn University, Sweden. Her research interests include comparative studies of journalism cultures, conflict and media, gender and intersectionality, and media and migration. Currently Liudmila is involved in a comparative research project on photojournalism education, "Photographic realism in the digital media age. Photojournalism and visual literacy in Russia and Sweden" (project leader - Patrik Åker).