Updated News 22nd October 2018
The Decisive Moment, Quarterly journal from the Documentary Group, The Royal Photographic Society, showcasing the Living Legacies funded Refocusing Perspective Project
The ‘Refocusing Perspectives: Then and Now Photography of the First World War’ project in 2017 was a partnership venture that brought together two academics from the University of Exeter with a group of participant volunteers, drawn from across the Special Interest Groups within the Royal Photographic Society (RPS). It was funded by the ‘Living Legacies’ First World War Public Engagement Centre at Queens University Belfast. Photography has long played a central role in the way in which people encounter the First World War, and the aim of the project was to prompt reflective engagement with this, set against the backdrop of the conflict’s on-going centenary commemorations.
Two project workshops were held in March and August, at which guest speakers gave presentations to inspire the participants around the concept of ‘Then and Now’ comparative photography. This provided the prompt for individual contributions to the project. Over the summer, participants conducted research on various aspects of the First World War that were of personal interest to them. In October, this material was produced in a series of pop-up banner displays.
The result was, in some ways, quite eclectic but this reflects the personal and authentic responses to the research challenge - the diverse and innovative ways in which these photographic practitioners chose to engage with the First World War and what it means to them today. The material in this article represents the fruit of their labours, as a piece of co-produced research.
Professor David Harvey and I are grateful to our participants for their commitment and dedication to the project, and to the RPS for their broader support. A special thanks to David Barnes (Secretary of the Documentary Group), who acted as the principal point of contact.
Updated News 3rd August – 3rd September ‘Connecting Communities – Critical Reflections on WW1 Commemoration’
Keith Lilley - Living Legacies Engagement Centre at the Ulster Museum (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
On Friday 3rd August 2018, the Living Legacies Engagement Centre launched a new exhibition in the Belfast Room of the Ulster Museum (Belfast, Northern Ireland) in association with the National Museums of Northern Ireland (NMNI). The exhibit 'Connecting Communities - Critical Reflections on WW1 Commemoration' runs from the 3rd August to the 3rd September 2018 and consists of panels and information boards focusing on the research outputs of three Living Legacies-funded projects: Women & Leisure during the First World War (Newcastle University/Women's Institute), Diverse Perspectives on a Global Conflict: Migrant Voices & Living Legacies of World War One (Ulster University/North West Migrants Forum) and Refocusing Perspectives: Then & Now Photography of the First World War (Exeter University). Professor Keith Lilley, Director of the Living Legacies Centre and Hannah Crowdy, Head of Curatorial at National Museums of Northern Ireland welcomed and introduced the event, after which Dr Philip McDermott (PI, Diverse Perspectives), Dr Paul Wright (RA, Women & Leisure) and Dr James Wallis (RA, Refocusing Perspectives) provided short lectures presenting each of the projects, offering a synthesis of the impacts and outputs their Living Legacies-funded projects have had. The event was well-attended with representatives from the offices of the Heritage Lottery Fund in London, senior academics from Queen's University and Ulster University, Chief Executives and Programme Directors from Libraries NI, NI Community Relations Council, the Department for Communities (NI), the Northern Ireland Public Records Office and members of local history organisations and the general public. Feedback recorded from the day included: 'Seeing varying narratives and collaborative efforts is refreshing...enriching to public discourse!', 'the detail of the projects was fascinating', 'great to see such content being held at national museum level at the Ulster Museum', and 'there is a more diverse community in Northern Ireland than I was aware of...'.
Diverse Perspectives Women & Leisure
Dr Philip McDermott
Dr Paul Wright
Dr James Wallis
HLF’s Araba Webber Dr Philip McDonald & Dr James Wallis
Updated News Saturday 18th November Symposium in Winchester
The Refocussing Perspectives: Then and Now Photography of the First World War project held its final symposium in Winchester on 18th November. We also used the occasion to launch the Project Exhibition. This Exhibition was comprised of ten panels, each led by a volunteer researcher from the Royal Photographic Society. The Keynote Lecture at the Symposium was given by the well-known First World War author and Harry Patch’s biographer, Richard van Emden, who presented a series of previously unpublished photographs combined with excerpts from soldiers’ own diaries and letters from the battle fronts of 1917. Each of the volunteers gave short presentations of their work, and reflected on the research process and the wider experiences of being able to develop their photographic passion through the guise of an interdisciplinary academic project. The quality of the individual work was outstanding, but the really fascinating aspect of this project has been the way in which each of the volunteer researchers developed their research interests in a distinct and creative manner. The instructions to follow a “Then-and-Now” theme provided a challenge to that volunteers responded to in a variety of ways. For some volunteers, “Then-and-Now” prompted them to capture a series of paired images that were juxtaposed to show just how much certain landscape features and buildings had changed, while for others, it was the recognition of how certain things had changed so little that was the most striking. Some volunteers followed what happened to material artefacts from ‘Then’, while others sought to capture how a ‘feeling’, attitude or outlook had faired over the intervening century. As well as the Exhibition panels, each containing two sets of paired images, each of the volunteer-led research projects has space on the Living Legacies website in which further sets of paired images and developing research thoughts are to be archived and displayed. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and we would like to thank all of the participants and audience, as well as Richard van Emden for an immensely rich and rewarding research experience.
Updated News Thursday 31st August Project Workshop
Dr James Wallis (University of Exeter & University of Essex) is the Co-ordinator for the ‘Refocusing Perspectives’ project.
The ‘Refocusing Perspectives’ group gathered at the Institute of Historical Research (London) on Thursday 31st August, for a second project workshop. A packed itinerary began with a fantastic and inspiring talk by Mike Sheil, the battlefield photographer behind the work ‘Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace’. A labour of love initiated in 2005, Mike has assembled a visually arresting collection of images. Since 2014, a selection of these have formed the basis of an outdoor photographic exhibition, which has toured across locations within Europe and America. To date, it has been seen by over eight million people, click here to view.
Mike Sheil addresses members of the 'Refocusing Perspectives’ group (Photograph by David Harvey).
The group then learned about the work and activities of the ‘Living Legacies’ Engagement Centre from Professor Keith Lilley (Queens University Belfast). His presentation incorporated an imaginative example of utilizing digitized historic maps, to create a form of ‘Then and Now’ comparison.
Each volunteer then gave a ten minute presentation on their respective research projects, which they had worked on over the summer. It was testament to the quality of these talks that our programme itinerary went awry, on the back of so much interest and discussion generated. Furthermore it granted an opportunity to see how the ‘Then and Now’ mantra had been adopted by each of our participants, in differing and innovative ways. We were especially grateful to Dr Shanti Sumartojo (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) and Helen Mavin (Imperial War Museums) for their feedback and input towards proceedings.
Our focus is now on bringing collective findings together, and turning these into a temporary exhibition display. This will be launched at our project symposium event on Saturday 18th November.
Wednesday 30th August
Seminar Paper at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference, London. (Session 2, between 11.10 and 12.50, Session: 'State Commemoration in a Digital World') "Between then and now - an exploration of commemorative First World War Photography" James Wallis and David Harvey
Thursday 31st August
Workshop at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London, "Refocusing Perspectives - Then and Now Photography of the First World War" James Wallis, David Harvey and members of the Royal Photographic Society.
Building a network of practitioners - through collaboration, shared research and engagement with a wider public - on the theme of ‘Then and Now' First World War photography.
The purpose of the workshop was to foster a network of participants, willing to partake in, and contribute material towards, this research project. Over the half-day session, we developed a coherent plan of action; allowing participants to identify and collaborate on a series of research themes, and subsequently share skills, knowledge and findings.
Tyne Cot near Ypres (Belgium). This picture shows a small part of the largest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. A single image from ground level cannot show the scale of the place; the headstones, the names inscribed on the walls, or the personal tributes left. Photograph courtesy of David Barnes.