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Aesthetics After Photography

This collaborative and inter-disciplinary research project is funded by the AHRC (2007-2010) and directed by Professor Margaret Iversen in the Department of Art History and Theory at the University of Essex and by Dr. Diarmuid Costello in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

The Project Homepage (hosted at Essex) provides information of the project and its activities including a Summary of the project and a statement of Objectives.

Our task is to examine the significance of the transformation in contemporary photographic art practice from the 1960s to the present, and its implications for aesthetic theory. We will be particularly concerned to understand the ways in which recent photographic art puts pressure on a variety of aesthetic categories, reconfiguring rather than negating them.

The project will not only extend our understanding of what is now one of the dominant mediums of contemporary art, but propose new models of art writing that draw equally on art history, theory, aesthetics, philosophical reflection and criticism.

The philosophical side of the project will be concerned with what distinguishes photography as an artistic medium, and the ontology of the photograph, especially in the light of digital photography, and the implications of the latter for the epistemic privilege previously associated with photography’s ‘objectivity’, ‘transparency’ and ‘automaticity’. For details see: Philosophical Research.

The art historical side of the project will track photography’s transformation from anti-aesthetic, post-conceptual document to large scale pictorial art of sumptuous aesthetic effects. What are the implications of this shift for previous touchstones of photo-theory, such as radical aspirations of the early avant-garde?



Lead Researchers

Margaret Iversen, Art History and Theory, Essex

Diarmuid Costello, Philosophy, Warwick


Research Fellows

Wolfgang Brückle, Art History and Theory, Essex

Dawn Phillips, Philosophy, Warwick


Sponsor 2007-2010