Neither forbidden nor particularly encouraged or supported: the ambivalent status of photography during Romania’s communist period

Dr Uschi Klein, School of Art and Media, University of Brighton

Wednesday 10th May 2023, 5:30 to 7pm (online)

CMNH Seminar Series: Visual culture, history, and memory
We will open bookings for this online event here a few weeks before. Details of how to join the seminar will then be shared before the event to those registered.

Just over thirty years after the fall of the Soviet bloc, at a time when we see the return of oppressive policy making in Eastern European countries like Hungary and Poland, and an aggressive war in Ukraine, photography research on the experiences of everyday life during Romania’s communist past remains an underexplored subject area. Moreover, photography had an interesting status in communist Romania. Although owning a camera was not prohibited and people were encouraged to take photographs, the regime dominated the perception of photography, which complicated the relationship with and status of photography. Contextualised within the broader understanding of decolonising the Western photography canon, this paper draws on recent archival research and oral history interviews to shed light on the use and practices of photography during one of the most repressive dictatorships of Eastern Europe.

Our seminar series this year highlights work taking place in a new research area for the Centre for Memory, Narrative and Histories and focuses on global visual culture and its relationship with politics, history and cultural memory in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The seminar series brings together researchers exploring different methodological approaches to photography, film, the visual arts, and material culture to examine the social role and political relevance of images in everyday life. Through its different transdisciplinary topics and methodologies, the series draws attention to recurring themes around memory cultures and politics; decolonizing the photographic archive; popular images, overlooked traditions and alternative forms of art in relation to politics and life experience; histories of diaspora communities and identities; memories of conflict, trauma, resistance, political protest and activism; as well as spatial memories of the material environment.