Practice used to be something you did repeatedly on the way to achieving something else. A means to an end repeated so often you no longer had to think without doing it well. Not only could it get you to Carnegie Hall, practice, so they say, would make perfect. These days practice is the beginning, the middle, and the end. It’s as much about the journey itself as the final result. A never-ending cycle. A life’s work, even. So when I first considered practice-based research, the idea seemed perplexing. Not only was it necessary to complete it within a specific timescale, the milestones required a temporal rigour that seemed more like the previous definition.
The confines of academic research often feel like you need a square peg-round hole way of thinking. And when it comes to art practice, it can feel intimidating when you have to jump through various hoops and wear different hats. One of the challenges of practice-based research is finding the right space to discuss new ways of working. Though the arena of practice-based research has expanded into a vast array of new practices encompassing art and myriad interconnecting subjects and disciplines, many of the existing forums are modelled on ‘old school’ frameworks that don’t always lend themselves to practice-based inquiry and creative methodologies. Traditional arts-based journals can feel stuffy and their design leaves a lot to be desired. The images often seem like an afterthought. Perhaps the odd small black & white photograph to illustrate the text, or a colour front cover followed by a mass of words. On the other hand, the photo-led full colour spreads are only to be found in glossy magazines. Which, while they might look good, generally lack the credibility of academic journals, and tend to steer clear of academic critique and jargon, rightly using a plain English frowned upon by the academy. I wanted to create a publication that would provide a space for critical discussion that placed practice at the fore and allowed for dialogue between practice and prose. There is a recognition that many of the issues and problems that need addressing, whether in our field or in the wider community, can only be effectively addressed through transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration – including collaborations across theory and practice – and finding the right space to collaborate is an important step towards tackling these issues.
The Journal of International Photography is a new publishing project that seeks to unite practitioners and academics, to exchange knowledge and foster innovation through artistic practice. The publication is designed to engage a broad audience within and beyond the academic community. The journal seeks to develop networks and collaborative projects between artists and academics researching internationally. Volume 1 featured contributions from academics and practitioners, while showcasing the work of award-winning and original photography. The inaugural edition was launched online in 2020 and reviews have recognised the value and importance of creative research and practice. The publication is professionally designed and printed to a high standard to reflect the quality of the visual research material within.
This year, I’ve been developing the project into an expanded network, focusing on a range of issues relevant to both my PhD study and the wider academic and artistic community.
The initial network includes participants from Manchester Met, UCLan and UCA, and a selection of artists and practitioners, and will be developed online via website and at network events when possible. The network includes academics, artists/practitioners, and industry professionals working in fine art, photography, and inter-disciplinary practice, and there is an emphasis on practice-led research and knowledge exchange through collaborative outputs that mutually support the work of artists, academics, and academic-practitioners.
Volume 2 features photographic work by artists who offer new perspectives and contribute to contemporary debates on art and photography, drawing on a diverse range of voices to open a dialogue between the visual and the textual, and the subjects, spaces and concepts represented. This project has given me a forum to discuss ideas with practitioners and academics, and build networks across academic institutions. The opportunity to contribute original writing and image-based research provides an excellent springboard to develop my research and investigate practice-based methodologies.
Daniel was part-funded through the Manchester Metropolitan Graduate School’s Research Support Award to work on the Journal of International Photography. Find out more about the award and application process by visiting the PGR Development Moodle area.