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Belknap Global Conversation: Humanitarian Photojournalism: A History of the Present

October 18, 2018 · Betts Auditorium & 106 McCormick

Belknap Global Conversation in the Humanities Council
Photo: A Kurdish refugee boy from the Syrian town of Kobani holds onto a fence that surrounds a refugee camp. November 3, 2014. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Humanitarian Photojournalism: A History of the Present

The Humanities Council will host a public conversation as part of a two-day workshop focusing on the history of photojournalism and its relationship to humanitarianism.

A panel of distinguished photojournalists will join a discussion about the history of photographic reportage, especially reporting of war and atrocity, followed by a reception in the Princeton University Art Museum. Discussants will include Susan Meiselas, Visiting Belknap Fellow in the Humanities Council and Department of English, and photojournalists Peter van Agtmael and Sim Chi Yin.

The Belknap Global Conversation will be moderated by Katherine Bussard, the Peter C. Bunnell Curator of Photography at the Princeton University Art Museum, on Thursday, October 18, 4:30 PM in Betts Auditorium.

Almost from the beginning of war photography in the nineteenth century, observers, activists, and eventually scholars have asked whether photography produces more empathy and understanding, or more apathy and distortion. By the 1970s, especially with the influence of Susan Sontag’s critique of photojournalism and with the rise of human rights movements, the debate moved into high gear. Nowadays, it is once again on display with controversies around the representation of, and control over, reportage of the Syrian War.

The following day, Friday, October 19, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM in 106 McCormick, historians, art historians, critics, and photojournalists will make brief presentations to begin addressing such questions as: What were the connections between the rising importance of photo-reportage and the rise of global humanitarianism?  Were they allies, enemies, or simply coincidences?  Can the relationship have had a history, connected to European decolonization, to development, and to shifting practices of visual production and circulation in the global media?

The workshop will be moderated by Jeremy Adelman, the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and Director of the Global History Lab.

Participants in the workshop include:

Peter van Agtmael, photojournalist

Gary Bass, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School and Politics Department, Princeton University

Katherine Bussard, Peter C. Bunnell Curator of Photography, Princeton University Art Museum

Susie Linfield, Associate Professor, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University

Susan Meiselas, photojournalist and Visiting Belknap Fellow in the Humanities Council and Department of English, Princeton University

Andrew S. Thompson, President, CEO, Arts and Humanities Research Council UK

Virginie Troit, Directrice générale, Fondation Croix-Rouge française

Sim Chi Yin, photojournalist

The program is organized by Jeremy Adelman and Katherine Bussard and co-sponsored by the Princeton University Art Museum and the Global History Lab.


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