Compelling Evidence: the mobilization of the Carlton Hill photographic archive across time

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This paper focuses on a single British case study, a collection of ‘Brighton slum’ photographs, and tracks their ‘itinerant languages’ (Cadava, 2013). By moving into and across the physical context of a number of archival photographs taken between 1933-35 of the Carlton Hill area, one of Brighton’s oldest working class neighbourhoods built between 1800- 1850, we explore the lives of these images (Lutz & Collins, 1993). We trace the movement of these photographs across three time periods: the time they were originally made, the early 1980s when the photographs were rediscovered, and the present. The photographs were exploited as ‘compelling evidence’ for making drastic change, justifying the council decision to ‘clear the slum’. The places were documented so they would be erased. We argue that these photographs continue to provide compelling evidence as physical archival objects whose continued presence points to and confirms that this neighbourhood, and its residents, now gone, did once exist. To coincide with Brighton’s 2015 IVM conference, we mobilized a number of the original photographs in an exhibition at Brighton’s public library and through a site- specific evening projection event. We captured responses from former residents and their descendants, who came to see the exhibit. This paper demonstrates how each new form of collaboration has the potential to open up novel ways of visualizing historical research, and gives back historical archives to a public sphere that values the experiences of displaced communities across generations and disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-31
Number of pages12
JournalVisual Methodologies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction, in any medium as long as the original work is properly cited.


  • audience engagement
  • visual methods
  • photography archives


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