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Personal profile

Research interests

Dr Annebella Pollen is an academic working across a range of interests in material and visual culture. Her research areas include mass photography, popular image culture and histories of art, craft, design and dress, especially in relation to marginal, alternative and non-canonical visual and material forms.

Supervisory Interests

Annebella is interested in supervising PhD projects relating to visual and material culture, especially in relation to popular photography and popular image cultures, Mass Observation, modern British art and design, non-elite design and dress history, everyday / vernacular cultural practices and countercultures. She is currently supervising twelve doctoral students, including three in funded partnership with national museums. She has supervised four PhD students to completion, including a PhD by Publication, and has examined a further sixteen at University of the Arts London, Brighton, Bolton, Glasgow School of Art, Huddersfield, Lancaster, Manchester School of Art, Nottingham, Sheffield, SOAS, Sussex, UCL and Ulster.

Scholarly biography

Dr Annebella Pollen is Reader in the History of Art and Design and Director of the Centre for Design History. Previously she has been Academic Programme Leader in History of Art and Design (2017-20), AHRC Research Fellow (2015-17) and Director of Historical and Critical Studies, Faculty of Arts (2012-15).

She holds a PhD from University of the Arts London alongside a first class BA in Visual Culture, a PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (Distinction) and an MA in Design History and Material Culture (Distinction) from the University of Brighton where she has lectured since 2005. 

In 2018-19 Annebella won a competitive commercial book commission from the British Council to produce a history of art in international cultural relations, focusing on the British Council Collection of 9000 modern and contemporary works. Art without Frontiers will be published in 2021.

In 2015-17 Annebella held an AHRC Fellowship, 'Picturesqueness in Everything: The Visual and Material Culture of British Woodcraft Groups, 1916-2016'. This project explored art, craft, design and dress as forms of resistance, radical educational strategies and utopian ideals, focusing on progressive interwar reform organisations. Major outcomes included the award-winning monograph, The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: Intellectual Barbarians and a co-curated exhibition of the same name at Whitechapel Gallery, 2015-16. Alongside, Annebella co-steered the Heritage Lottery Funded project, 90 Years of Woodcraft Folk, and co-edited A People's History of Woodcraft Folk (2016). In 2020-1, Annebella is developing her research on Kibbo Kift into a documentary film.

Annebella’s longstanding  interest in mass photography has covered found photos, family albums, vernacular archives, amateur competitions, photographic publishing and the photographic industry. It is the focus of her book, Mass Photography: Collective Histories of Everyday Life (2015). Further research can be found in her co-edited collections Reconsidering Amateur Photography (2012) and Photography ReframedNew Visions in Contemporary Photographic Culture (2018) and her many journal contributions and book chapters. Annebella regularly writes for the photographic press; her monthly column, Flea Market Photobooks, for Source: Thinking through Photography, explores non-canonical illustrated publications.

Other popular image culture research includes studies of Victorian valentines, Edwardian picture postcards and the history of the silhouette portrait. Her design history publications include the co-edited collection, Dress History: New Directions in Theory and Practice (2015) and numerous essays on dressing-up costumes, political uniforms, dress reform and nudism. Since 2017 Annebella has led Objects Unwrapped, a collaborative research project with Worthing Museum, focusing on its internationally-renowned costume collection. 

Approach to teaching

A personal view:

The impetus for many of my projects comes from teaching; all my research is developed by sharing and testing in classroom settings. Students bring unique perspectives and insights as practitioners and cultural commentators and act as formal and informal collaborators; in turn, students experience validation and engagement through participation in live debates and public-facing research. In the crucible of the classroom, through my research-led modules and my research-oriented methods teaching, I demonstrate how I do what I do, as well as how I know what I know, so students understand the structures behind the information and become independent, professional researchers themselves. This approach is informed by pedagogic scholarship, including a PGCert in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (Distinction) and Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, 2010.

I have taught since 2005 at all levels across the BA and MA History of Art and Design programme at Brighton, including as Academic Programme Leader, 2017-20, and previously in history and theory teaching for Fashion, Textiles, Design and Craft, including as Director of Historical and Critical Studies, 2012-15. My current teaching focus is on the support and development of PhD students. This can be seen most tangibly in successful bids I have made for collaborative doctoral funding with external partners including Worthing Museum and Art Gallery and National Science and Media Museum, Bradford.

I particularly value developing and leading collaborative staff-student research projects with arts and heritage organisations, such as Profiles of the Past and Objects Unwrapped. These projects demystify research, break down staff-student hierarchies, share networks and resources, teach aspiring professionals the tools of the trade and create showcases for original work that becomes part of public debate. 

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of the Arts London

External positions

External Examiner, MA Art and Visual Culture, University of Westminster


External Examiner, MA Critical and Historical Studies Dissertations, Royal College of Art


Future Leader Fellowships: Peer Review College member, UKRI


Peer Review College member, Arts and Humanities Research Council


External PhD Supervisor, University of Essex



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