07 Sep - 05 Oct 2020 18:30 - 20:00

Looking East: Photography in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1930s–90s (online)

Gain deeper insight into post-war photography from Central and Eastern Europe in this five-week course

How can photography build new and different understandings of Central and Eastern Europe? Running in conjunction with Jan Svoboda: Against the Light, this five-week course addresses thematic issues in these regions from the 1930s to the 1990s. Starting with brief incursions into modernism, it aims to provide a more inclusive perspective on the history of photography that contrast with Western-centred narratives. The course will touch upon lesser-known practitioners, and neglected chapters such as socialist cosmopolitanism, experimental and conceptual approaches, and the East as a liminal zone. Among topics discussed are the expansion of subcultural genres such as punk and rave during the "transition" years of the nineties, new approaches to documentary, and current issues pertaining to migration, ostalgie, class, gender, race, ethnicity and religion. 

Led by researcher Ileana L. Selejan.

Details on how to access the sessions will be confirmed upon registration. Please check your junk folders if you haven't received an email from TPG staff confirming your place.


Week 1: Modernism: photography as the modern medium

We will be looking at movements such as Constructivism, Bauhaus, Dada, Surrealism, exploring little known contributions to the international avant-garde. Photojournalism and reportage work will feature prominently, as we address topics such as the picture press, agitprop, Socialist Realism and the contribution of women photographers.

Week 2: The Eastern Bloc: photography and memory

Following on the first session, we start with a discussion of the Second World War (the Holocaust, Romani Porajmos) and move into the post-war era. Topics include: urbanisation, central planning, Cold War dynamics, surveillance, paranoia, internationalism, authoritarianism, the Prague Spring, the Yugoslav model of socialist "cosmopolitanism".

Week 3: 89

Exploring the meaning of photography around "the turn".

Week 4: The 90s

The session addresses work made in response to the so-called "transition" period. We will be looking at a range of work, documentary and fine art, and discuss issues related to the peripheral status of the region, as well as its framing in contemporary discourse. We will contrast prevalent images of war, poverty, and ruins with affirmative self-presentations, and the rise of subcultures, such as punk, and rave.

Week 5: Current Issues 

Lastly, we shall consider important contemporary topics such as migration, ostalgie, class, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and discuss new approaches to documentary from the region.


Ileana L. Selejan is Research Fellow with the Decolonising Arts Institute and Associate Lecturer at the University of the Arts London. Previously based in the Department of Anthropology at University College London, where she is now Honorary Research Fellow, she participates in the European Research Council (ERC) funded project, “Citizens of Photography: The Camera and the Political Imagination.” She was the Linda Wyatt Gruber ’66 Curatorial Fellow in Photography at The Davis Museum at Wellesley College where she curated the exhibition Charlotte Brooks at LOOK: 1951-1971. She received her PhD in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. As an associate lecturer, she taught in the Photography and Imaging Department at Tisch School of the Arts; in the Art History Department at New York University; at the Parsons School of Design in New York; and in the Fine Arts Department at West University, Timisoara, Romania. She is a contributing member of the Romanian experimental arts collective kinema ikon.

Image: Costică Acsinte, [Portrait from] Slobozia, Romania, circa 1930-1950, courtesy of the Costică Acsinte Archive 

£165/£150 members & concessions 

Special Ticket Offer
£193/£178 members & concessions includes discounted copy of Jan Svoboda's I'm Not a Photographer (for limited time only)

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