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New research to explore cultural diversity in British photography

New research which explores cultural diversity in British photography is being carried out at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

Professor Gil Pasternak, Chair of Photographic Cultures and Heritage at DMU, was awarded a Paul Mellon Event Support Grant, one of the most prestigious international grants available for research of British art history and culture.

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He will work in partnership with Midlands community interest company Black Country Visual Arts (BCVA) and the ReFramed network, both of which support Black, Asian, and other people of colour in producing and exhibiting photographic visual art.

Together, they will investigate how artistic literacy, educational access, and institutional policies have conditioned the participation of British communities of colonial heritage in the production of photographic visual culture in Britain.

Professor Pasternak said: “Photography scholars have developed knowledge about uses and understandings of photography in various colonial and post-colonial geographic contexts. But very little attention has been paid so far to the question of how British photographic practitioners of colonial heritage grapple with British socio-cultural establishments to enhance their cultural recognition in Britain itself.

“We anticipate and hope that the grant will help us increase public exposure to critically-engaged voices and living memories about the challenges facing marginalised British photographic practitioners in their endeavours to participate in defining and shaping the future of British art and visual culture.”


The limited opportunities available to British people of colonial heritage to participate in the shaping of British art and visual culture are at the heart of the project.

Anand Chhabra, BCVA director and a board member of the ReFramed network, said: “We feel there’s a need to generate greater public and academic awareness about the limited ability of marginalised British cultural groups to participate in British culture.”

The grant will fund a workshop with practitioners, curators, community activists, institution representatives, and scholars. It will mainly examine photographic initiatives and collections developed by Midlands-based British cultural minorities.

Chhabra added: “We want the workshop to open up a space for a much more focused discussion among photography practitioners of colonial heritage. It’ll help us reflect on personal and community experiences involving the mainstream British museum and culture sector.

“Having the chance to do that will also allow us to better understand how we perceive our position within British art and visual culture and how we could improve recognition of the originality of our photographic practice, especially through education and policy.”

The Paul Mellon Centre was founded in 1970 by the art collector and philanthropist Paul Mellon. Championing innovative ways of understanding British art history and culture, it is an educational charity and research institute, part of Yale University and a partner to the Yale Center for British Art in Connecticut, USA. Its grant schemes attract applicants from all around the world and are highly competitive.

Posted on Thursday 5th May 2022

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