APP 2023 call for papers

CFP: After Post-Photography 8 – Presence and Absence
International conference on visual studies, history and theory of photography
1-3 June 2023, European University (St. Petersburg, Russia // online)

Deadline for submissions: 30 March 2023

Presence, as a category, is crucial for understanding photography. Since its early days, photography’s specificity as a medium and as a form of visual experience has been described in terms of presence. The first exuberant accounts of daguerreotype, aside from praising detailed and accurate representation, highlighted a peculiar viewer’s feeling of being present in the depicted space. Further on, viewing a stereophotograph was experienced as an almost physical immersion, a stereoscope and a pair of images being a “portal” into an imaginary world. The experience of presence associated with photography is at the intersection of the rational and the magical, the material and the visual. The mystical ideas related to pseudoscience: that of “grasping” physical emanations, shadows, invisible energies – stem from rationalistic understanding of ​​photography as a tool for cognition, documentation of real world phenomena, and photographic images as directly connected with objects. The feeling of presence of people and objects depicted in the photograph is also mystical to an extent. The practice of wearing photographic portraits of loved ones in wallets, pendants, and, more recently, on the screensavers of mobile phones secures a symbolic presence and connection at a distance – not only through sight, but also through touch.

The category of “presence” is productive in relation to the photographer’s figure as well: especially in the mid-XX century documentary photography, physical presence in the vicinity of an event was regarded as a sort of confirmation of authenticity and authority, and to witness something in-person meant gaining stronger grounds in debates concerning ethics and social responsibility.

As institutional and social histories develop, researchers question forms of visual agency: what are the conditions of becoming visible and gaining presence in the general picture of the world? Photographic presence and absence can happen in a lot of different ways. Photographic images can be applied to highlight, generate, select and obscure persons, objects, events and relations; they can render them special, ordinary, normal or boring. While society treats photographic image as a valid representative of someone or something absent, the notion of presence is of high social and political importance. And the practices of selection, composition, contextualizing and fragmenting performed by artists, curators or algorithms are far from neutral and directly impact our life.

In light of the events of 2022-2023 it is most valid to interpret “presence” as a form of political pressure, an impact on the balance of power, and, on the other hand, as a bizarre form of participation-at-a-distance in the life of a family or community. Presence and absence can be understood both positively and negatively: presence could mean both representation and imposition of one’s will, and absence can signify vital omissions, as well as indifference. We invite potential speakers to reflect on these and many other questions related to these two categories. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

-The image is the real thing: Photographic replacements
-Skype and Zoom: Visual telepresence and other panoptical experiences
-This can’t be me: Non-representation through photography
-Mobile presence: The smartphone as representation of the self
-Photographic decay: What do faded photographs tell?
-Technical blindness – what photography can’t see or show
-Photographic media and their audiences
-You’ll only see this once: Technical ephemerality
-Photographs of what never has been: Retouching, rendering and other technologies of photo-realism

As it was the case with previous conferences however, After Post-Photography is driven by a general curiosity in subjects of photography. Thus, there is only ground rule for submitting a paper to After Post-Photography: If you‘re doing Sociology, Nuclear Physics, Ethnology, Computer Sciences, Gender Studies, Meteorology, Law, Memory Studies, Criminology, Architecture, Archaeology, Botany, Mathematics, Numismatics, Astronomy, Game Studies, Oenology, Art History or any other discipline from science and humanities and your research involves photography in the broadest sense, we are happy to receive your paper. Please submit your application, including a short summary of your paper (250-400 words) only in English no later than March 30, 2023. Use the following link:  ; do not send submissions per eMail. Note that you need to register at the Easychair website in order to submit your application. Should you like to get in touch with us prior to your submission, please write to .

There is no participation fee for the conference, neither for speakers nor for guests; should you like to support the conference however, let us know. Within the current situation, traveling options are impossible to predict which is why we plan for a hybrid conference.

The working languages of the conference are Russian and English, and during the conference, both papers and discussions will be translated. The programs of After Post-Photography conferences since 2015 can be found at this website.

We would sincerely appreciate it if you would circulate the call to your own networks and other mailing lists.

Organizing committee After Post Photography 8:  Olga Davydova, Maria Gourieva, Daria Panaiotti, Friedrich Tietjen

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APP team