Critical Image Forum: Research in Photography and Expanded Documentary

Critical Image Forum is an emerging research cluster focused on the political, ethical, aesthetic and social dimensions of expanded documentary practices. Since the advent and rapid popularization of photography, the relationship between photographic imagery and claims to truth have been proposed and disputed. Photographic images have also been used to subvert authoritarian interests, critique propaganda and counter ambivalence. Digital networks and expanded platforms of distribution have rapidly changed the field of photographic discourse. The hybridization of media necessitates a multi-disciplinary dialogue, however, critical visual literacy lags behind the pace of consumption.

The Critical Image Forum has been formed on the premise that, within the global circulation of mass visual imagery, an ethics of documentation must be continually re-examined. Intrinsic to photography is a “temporal recursivity”– a backward and forward movement through time that invites perpetual “returns.” (Smith, 2020). We must evaluate photography from the past as well as what’s to come–not by its nature, but by the effects of its uses.

Discourses relating to the photographic document are profoundly influential and entangled with practices in the fields of moving image production, sound, performance and new media. Our interdisciplinary and multimodal research is based in urgent issues of image literacy, and is based in the premise that the image incorporates a broad spectrum of re/presentation. Our cluster activities will focus on outward facing research of interest to general audiences, and pedagogical applications.


Affiliated UBC Faculty & Postdocs

Name Role Research Interests
McCormick, Kelly Faculty (G+PS eligible/member) Asian history; Visual theory, visual culture and visual literacy; Modern Japan; History of Visual and Material Culture/Photography; History of Technology; History of Gender and Sexuality
Silver, Erin Faculty (G+PS eligible/member) Art history and theory; Curatorial and related studies; Visual arts and media arts; Activism and visual culture; Artist or Author Social Identity; Artistic and Literary Marginality; Artistic and Literary Movements, Schools and Styles; Canadian contemporary art; Feminist art histories; Movement culture; Performance studies; Queer art; social movements
Thauberger, Althea Faculty (G+PS eligible/member) Art history and theory; Curatorial and related studies; Visual arts and media arts; Biopolitics and institutional critique/reform; Media philosophy; Photographic history/theory; Settler decolonization, and site-based art and activism