What is Conceptual Photography?

In Tate Modern there is a timeline listing chronologically the artists and movements that make up modern art. Rather surprisingly 'Conceptual Photography' appears in the late 70s. I don't remember the term ever being used even ten years ago, but in the last few years it has appeared in a number of places. It has been a subject of controversy – 'Is the Deutsche Börse prize now only for photographers who interrogate the medium – that is to say, conceptual photographers?' asked Sean O'Hagan about last year's show at the Photographers' Gallery. The rise of the term has also coincided with a renewed interest in Conceptual Art.

But the term is used inconsistently. To take this year's Deutsche Börse prize (the winner of which will be announced on Monday) it might be applied to each of the four artists shortlisted, from John Stezaker who was a first generation conceptual artist in the 70s, to Pieter Hugo who's work, at first glance, looks more like that of a documentary photographer recording environmental destruction.

The term sometimes refers to 'preconceived' photographs, sometimes images with a historical pedigree and most often to pictures with a generalised indebtedness to ideas. In the current issue of Source three essays suggest different definitions. To complement these articles we have made three films asking a number of artists, critics and curators what they think of conceptual photography. In the first film, critics John Roberts and Lucy Soutter describe the use of photography in Conceptual Art while John Hilliard talks about his own involvement in the movement and how those original principles are still present in the work he makes today.

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One Response to What is Conceptual Photography?

  1. Pingback: Source Magazine: What is Conceptual Photography? « Fotografisk Skoles Blog

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