Committed Photography and Text – May/June 2018

The Committed Phototext
from activism to struggles for visibility

May 31st – June 1st, 2018
at the MSH Paris Nord, Saint-Denis
Organized by
Pléiade (EA7338) / LEGS (UMR 8238)
Universities Paris 13 / Paris 8 – Paris 10 – CNRS

Dr. Nachtergael, Dr. Foucher Zarmanian and Pr. Paveau org.


Keynote Speakers

Shawn Michelle Smith (School of the Art Institute of Chicago, United States)

Andy Stafford (University of Leeds, Great-Britain)

Ill. : Martha Rosler, If It’s Too Bad to Be True, It Could Be DISINFORMATION, 1985 (vidéo, 16′) – Collection SFMOMA, Copyright © Martha Rosler


Texts illustrated with photographs or photographs accompanied with text have been variously designated (“photo-essay”, “photoliterature” or “iconotext”, coined by Nerlich in the early 80’s), however, the (notion of) phototext has the advantage of expressing very directly the idea of unity of such a dual dispositif, as much in its formal aspect as in its global meaning. The history of the phototext usually meets the common field of photoliterature, but it goes far beyond as it crosses the borders of media culture, publishing, artist books, pamphlets, commercial posters, and, since the rise of personal computers and the internet, of digital communication. If the phototext has become a dominant paradigm in the ways of reading in the 21st century, the amount of phototextual production, since the end of the 19th century, is so abundant – as that of images or texts alone – that we can only study segments of it.

At the crossroads of visual studies, cultural studies, the history of images and semiotic and linguistic analysis, the aim of this two-day conference is to put in relief the singularity of a formal corpus that is closely tied to a specific cultural and political point of view: that of activism, of the struggles for rights and equality, and movements for a visible social recognition of minorities.

Leaving aside graphic forms of Propaganda (which could be developed more specifically in a future project), this conference aims to gather various forms of combined visual and textual activism, and show how this dual form is able to ignite social debates and to shed light on major democratic stakes, leading to a greater consideration for the concrete aspects of struggles for visibility.

Commitment may also be addressed: how does a phototextual document appear to be committed ? how do contextualisation / decontextualisation produce pragmatic effects ? To which extent can commitment and agency be considered competing concepts? Furthermore, the committed phototext, when subverted, transformed, redistributed, especially in the realm of remix culture, is interwoven with a memory that induces meaning and forms, generating new interpretations. We are welcoming contributions on May 68’s iconic impact.


Considering the vast range of present applications inviting us to produce phototexts (from private computer interfaces, popular applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, to continuous mass media broadcasting), papers are invited to explore the phototext in the following contexts:

  • Claims for equal rights (feminist struggles, antiracist, civil rights, LGBTQIA and black rights movements, with no restrictions)
  • Fights for independence and struggles for recognition (colonial, postcolonial and decolonial)
  • Antispecist struggle, animal rights, ecological and environment activism (see Mathieu Asselin, Monsanto, A photographic investigation, 2017)
  • Construction of new spaces of visibility (small presses, underground publishing, magazines, flyers and zines)
  • Rhetorical and semiotic apparatuses (using emotion, violence or visual shocks)

For instance, and with no limitations, we welcome studies focusing on:

  • Illustrated books devoted to countries struggling for independence, at war or undergoing a revolution,
  • The editorial frame of photo-essays and magazines in the 1960 and 70’s,
  • Artivist artworks, politically committed or popular art, counter-culture or protest art (zines, posters, montage, diverted images);
  • Native digital phototextual productions (from the Internet or the social web), shared for protest or activism ; any pictures with incorporated text, Internet memes, macro images, placards;
  • Forms, and their production, meaning and reception, representation and circulation in time and historical evolutions.
  • Theoretical and historical approaches on commitment, agency and memory, and the way they changed or evolved through time (from the history of struggles to the political dimension of visual studies)

Study period and geographical and cultural areas are open.


Submission guidelines and schedule:

  • Papers and presentations can be either in French or in English. A selection of papers will be published online.
  • Deadline for paper submission: November 20th, 2017
  • Submission guidelines: 500 words with an indicative bibliography and a short bio. Each submission will be reviewed by a scientific committee (in progress).
  • Conference dates: Thursday, May 31st – Friday, June 1st, 2018
  • Venue: Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Saint Denis (France)
  • Deadline for article submission: end of June, 2018
  • Organizing committee: Magali Nachtergael (Pléiade-Paris 13), Charlotte Foucher Zarmanian (LEGS-CNRS) et Marie-Anne Paveau (Pléiade-Paris 13).
  • Contacts : ; ;

Keywords : photography, commitment, politics, visual studies, history of art, media studies, press studies, photo-essay, photobook, activism, equality, environment, feminism, racism, LGBTQI

Bibliographie sélective / Selected Bibliography

Allard Laurence, « L’art de la capture d’écran, de Richard Prince à l’auto-screen », MOBACTU [blog],, 01.06.2015

— « De l’hypertexte au “mobtexte” : les signes métissés de la culture mobile. Ecrire quand on agit », in Angé Caroline (dir.), Les objets hypertextuels. Pratiques et usages hypermédiatiques, Paris, Iste Editions, 2015, p. 167-186.

Alloa Emmanuel dir., Penser l’image III, Dijon, Perceptions, Presses du réel, 2017

Badger Gerry, Parr Martin, The Photobook: a History (vol. 1, 2 et 3), Londres, Phaidon, 2004, 2006 et 2014

Barthes Roland. Mythologies, Paris, Seuil, 1957
— « Rhétorique de l’image » [1964­], Œuvres complètes. Livres, textes, entretiens (1962-1967), t. 2, Paris, Seuil, 2002
La Chambre claire. Note sur la photographie, Paris, Cahiers du cinéma-Seuil-Gallimard, 1980

Bartholeyns Gil dir., Politiques visuelles, Dijon, Perceptions, Presses du réel, 2016

Blandin Claire dir., « Féminisme en ligne », Réseaux, n°201, janvier-mars 2017

Boidy Maxime, « Luttes de représentation, luttes de visibilité », Hybrid, n°4, 2017,  en ligne :

Bonenfant Maude, « Le mème numérique : étude sémiotique des réseaux à partir des concepts de trace et d’indice », RISCP 12 , 2014,

Bouchardon Serge et al., « Explorer les possibles de l’écriture multimédia », Les Enjeux de l’information et de la communication 2011 (n° 12/2), p. 11-24.

Crimp Douglas, Pictures. S’approprier la photographie. New-York, 1979-2014, éd. établie par Gaëtan Thomas, Paris, Le Point du jour, 2016

Debouzy Marianne, La désobéissance civile aux Etats-Unis et en France, 1970-2014, Rennes, des Amériques, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2016

Desanges Guillaume, Piron François, Contre-cultures 1969-1989 : l’esprit français, Paris, La Découverte, 2017

Dubuisson Daniel, Raux Sophie, A Perte de vue. Les nouveaux paradigmes du visuel, Dijon, Les Presses du réel, 2015

Dufour Diane et Witkovsky Matthew S., Provoke. Between Protest and Performance : Photography in Japan 1960–1975, Göttingen, Steidl, 2016

Gervais Thierry et Morel Gaëlle, La Fabrique de l’information visuelle – photographies et magazines d’actualité, Paris, L’écriture photographique, Textuel, 2015

Gimenez Elsa, Voirol Olivier dir., « L’internet des droites extrêmes », Réseaux, n°202-203, avril-juin 2017

Gunthert André, L’Image partagée, la photographie numérique, Paris, L’écriture photographique, Textuel, 2015

Fernandez, Horacio, Photobooks Spain 1905-1977, Madrid, RM – Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofía, 2014

Hugues Alex, Noble Andrea dir., Phototextualities. Intersections of Photography and Narrative, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2003

Karasik Mikhail, The Soviet Photobook 1920-1941, Göttingen, Steidl, 2015

Labry Manon, Riot Grrrls, Chronique d’une révolution punk féministe, Paris, Zones-La Découverte, 2016

Mitchell W. J. T., Picture Theory. Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1995

– Iconologie : image, texte, idéologie, tr. fr. Maxime Boidy et Stéphane Roth, Paris, Penser / croiser, Les Prairies ordinaires, 2009

Mirzoeff Nicholas dir., The Visual Culture Reader [1998], Londres, Routledge, 2013

Berger John, Mohr Jean, Une autre façon de raconter, tr. fr. Camille Aillaud, Paris, L’œil tendu, L’écarquillé, 2014

Olson Lester C., Finnegan Cara A., Hope Diane S. dir., Visual Rhetoric: A Reader in Communication and American Culture, Los Angeles, Sage, 2008

Parr Martin et alii, The Chinese Photobook: From the 1900s to the Present, New York, Aperture, 2016

Pleyers Geoffrey dir., « Militantisme en réseau », Réseaux, n°181, septembre-octobre 2013

Stafford Andy, Photo-texts: Contemporary French Writing of the Photographic Image, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2010

Reckitt Helena, Phelan Peggy, Art et féminisme, tr. fr. Marie Hermet, Paris, Phaidon, 2005

Sekula Allan, Écrits sur la photographie 1974-1986, éd. Marie Muracciole, Paris, Beaux-Arts de Paris les éditions, 2013

Solomon-Godeau Abigail, Chair à canons. Photographie, discours, féminisme, Paris, L’écriture photographique, Textuel, 2016

Smith, Shawn Michelle , Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture, Durham, Duke UNiversity Press, 2004

– American Archives: Gender, Race, and Class in Visual Culture Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1999

Vouilloux Bernard, « Texte et image ou verbal et visuel ? », in Liliane Louvel et Henri Scepi dir., Texte/Image, Nouveaux problèmes, Rennes, Interférences, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2005, p. 17-31

Collectif, « Iconographies rebelles. Sociologie des formes graphiques de contestation », Cultures et conflits, n°91-92, automne-hiver 2013

« L’écrit dans l’œuvre », Histoire de l’art, n° 71, 2012

« Approches visuelles – Une chance pour l’histoire de l’art », Histoire de l’art, n° 70, 2012

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