Beyond us and them: participatory photography after Mass Observation

Research output: Other contribution


Catalogue essay to accompany Bolton at Home / Bolton Museum's commissioned photography project and exhibition, entitled photobreightmet, by Les Monaghan, 19 February - 23 April 2011. Extract: In an age of participatory media, when the means of self-representation are purportedly no longer held only by those with access to specialist equipment and training, what is the relevance of allowing ‘outsiders' (like ‘Pres Les') to ‘colonise' the independent country of ‘Great Breighmet'? Camera ownership may be widespread in our own times, and the photographic coverage of everyday lives in what is sometimes described as a ‘surveillance society' may mean that people may feel that they are over-represented visually, yet much rests on who is doing the looking, and how. The ethical landscape has certainly changed since Mass Observer Humphrey Spender concealed a camera beneath his overcoat in Bolton more than seventy years ago: photographs of children in the public domain, for example, are often the source of moral anxiety, while notions of ‘insiders' and ‘outsiders', elites and the masses, can seem rather dated. Yet inequalities remain, and the opportunities for so-called ordinary people to declare their aspirations and to take to the walls of an art gallery are few, and that still matters.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBolton at Home / Bolton Library and Museums Services
Place of PublicationBolton
ISBN (Print)None
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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