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Collaborative practice

April 22, 2007

By Charlie Devereux, liveblogging from The Democratic Image symposium

While yesterday’s debate focused primarily on the marriage between technology and photography, today’s morning session was more practical, with talks by two practitioners of collaborative photography.

Marysa Dowling (who posted earlier on this blog) has worked with her family and children in east London and Havana schools to explore relationships and concepts of identity. Irene Lumley has collaborated with sufferers of breast cancer and cystic fibrosis to give them “a different way of expressing their issues.”

What is apparent in both their work is the need for conversation and dialogue, and how there are constantly fluctuating levels of control: at the end of the day, who owns the work – the established ‘artist’ or the ‘participant’?

Irene Lumley said she believed in treating her collaborators as artistic equals. She said that she never displays an image taken in collaboration without first consulting the co-creator.

An issue that was raised was how work like this is treated by galleries and artistic establishments. John Perivolaris mentioned how a project for Look 07 was treated with a certain condescension when it was pitched to certain galleries, who questioned whether the quality of the work would stand up.

John pointed out that in some ways collaborative artists act as an interface between art institutions and groups of people who would normally be excluded from that world.

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