‘“We print pictures and ideas”: TEN.8 Photographic Magazine and the discursive field of British photography in the 1980s’

Paper given at Photographic History Research Centre Summer Conference 2015, De Montford University

Abstract: This paper focuses on the British photography magazine TEN.8, which was published in Birmingham from 1979 until 1993. The magazine was generated by the shared interests of a group that included photographers but also community activists, journalists, art historians, and educators, in publishing photography and engaging with its associated debates. That the first editorial suggests these individuals held disparate opinions as to the agenda of the magazine is indicative of the particular ways in which the field of photography was contested across various social, cultural and political spheres during that period. As John Taylor, one member of the early editorial collective, suggests, the on-going struggle for ‘coherence was absolutely right for the period’ (Reed and Taylor 2002).

This paper will situate TEN.8 within the wider context of British photography as it intersected with print culture in this period, taking as point of departure a series of advertisements for the magazine that appeared contemporaneously in a number of other journals. Locating the ambition of the editors to pair “pictures and ideas”, I will consider the position that TEN.8 attempted to occupy between the British independent photography and education sectors. In doing so, I will address the contribution that the magazine made to a moment that established ‘the very subjectness of photography as an academic discipline’ (Dewdney 2011: 264). Focusing on the example of TEN.8, this paper argues for acknowledgement of the role that photography magazines played within this broader discursive frame and the critique of modernism that undertaken by the emerging photography theory in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

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