Research and Curating
My photo-history research was focussed on nationalist German photographers of the 1930s and 1940s as well as the influence of esoteric currents on select photographic practices. As a direct result of this research, since 2010 over 500 vintage German photographs were added to our university collection through funded purchases and through donations. Working with donated historical negatives I printed images that in many cases have not been seen since the 1940s and some were never in print at all. A monograph Erich Retzlaff: volksfotograf was published to accompany a touring exhibition of some of this work that I curated in conjunction with the German Historical Institute, London (2013/14). I also curated an exhibition entitled A Radical Tradition, which opened in Manchester in 2019. The exhibition was comprised of the School of Art Gallery and Museum's German photography acquisitions and additional work from period publications.
Photography in the Third Reich: Art, Physiognomy and Propaganda (book)
This lucid and comprehensive collection of essays by an international group of scholars constitutes a photo-historical survey of select photographers who embraced National Socialism during the Third Reich. These photographers developed and implemented physiognomic and ethnographic photography, and, through a Selbstgleichschaltung (a self-co-ordination with the regime), continued to practice as photographers throughout the twelve years of the Third Reich.
The volume explores, through photographic reproductions and accompanying analysis, diverse aspects of photography during the Third Reich, ranging from the influence of Modernism, the qualitative effect of propaganda photography, and the utilisation of technology such as colour film, to the photograph as ideological metaphor. With an emphasis on the idealised representation of the German body and the role of physiognomy within this representation, the book examines how select photographers created and developed a visual myth of the ‘master race’ and its antitheses under the auspices of the National Socialist state. Photography in the Third Reich approaches its historical source photographs as material culture, examining their production, construction, and proliferation. This detailed and informative text will be a valuable resource not only to historians studying the Third Reich, but to scholars and students of film, history of art, politics, media studies, and cultural studies.
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I have an extensive exhibition record. I participated in group and solo exhibitions for over 30 years developing an international profile with associated publications. The exhibition experience included exhibitions in London, Johannesburg, Kansas City, Leeuwarden, Cape Town, Durban, New York, Chicago, Berlin, Baltimore, Cardiff, and Pretoria. My practice as an experimental filmmaker resulted in a commission from the Arts Council of Wales to make a film for the O4W Fourth Wall Film Festival, Cardiff in 2012 (you can view some of my experimental films by following the link to my YouTube channel). My photographic and print work is represented in many private collections as well as institutional collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Johannesburg Art Gallery.
Curating - 'A Radical Tradition'
This touring exhibition (and accompanying text) explored the work of three relatively unknown twentieth-century German photographers - Hans Saebens (1895-1969), Hans Retzlaff (1902-1965) and Erich Retzlaff (1899-1993). Their work was produced as part of the visual narrative of a National Socialist romanticism of the peasant and the ‘Heimat' – a study of Ethnos. Often what was visualised looked backwards through a blend of myth, legend, race science, and occult currents to a divine origin of the 'Aryan' who had, it was suggested, emerged in a distant time from an Ultima Thule. And, Janus-like, this work was part of an ideology that also looked forward to a rebirth, an epic palingenesis where, out of the dying decadent world, a new one would be forged in fire and blood. The fact that this German photography was ideological signifies that the work should be understood. The power of photography to form and direct public opinion, information, and ideas has been well documented. Yet a self-conscious visual literacy, an informed understanding and respect for the influence that a constant exposure to the image can effect, is still remarkably uncommon even in our over-exposed, image-saturated culture. Comprehending the power-potential of these images is as relevant today in our increasingly polarised world, as it was over 80 years ago.
There is now a deluxe and fully illustrated German-language publication produced by Verlag Antaios as a summary of this exhibition - Eine Radikale Tradition.