Workshop series: Politics of the Amateur Image

Blogpost by Nikolaus Perneczky of student-led workshop series centred around the history and present of amateur moving image media that brings together researchers and practitioners (artists, filmmakers etc.). Funded by CHASE.

Each of the three sessions of the Politics of the Amateur Image workshop series confronted historical with contemporary examples of amateur moving image media. Particular emphasis was placed on the methodological challenges posed by these artefacts; challenges which were answered by an array of interdisciplinary approaches elaborated by artists and researchers in critical conversation.

In the first session, artist Noah Angell and writer/researcher Francis Gooding presented material from their work-in-progress Lux Imperium, a found footage film based on a cache of late colonial home movies recently rediscovered in a Bristol archive, while artist and researcher Onyeka Igwe (University of the Arts, London/TECHNE) explored the possibilities of contemporary auto-ethnography – an appropriative strategy that allows marginalised subjects to tell their own stories – taking as her example a recent 4 DVD boxset commemorating the funeral of an Igbo matriarch.

In the second session, Francis Gooding presented Artifact Readers, an examination of pixelated revelations, glitch augury and low-res millenarianism in the (present) age of conspiracy theory, while Nikolaus Perneczky (Goldsmiths, University of London/CHASE) looked at earlier religious uses of amateur moving image media, specifically the recently restored 16mm films produced ca. 1930 by African-American evangelists James and Eloyce Gist for purposes of their traveling ministry combining film screenings, sermon and song.

The third session paired a lecture performance by Noah Angell, which considered anonymous records of US police violence caught on camera phones as an emergent form of amateur film and as intimate index of confrontation with the law, with a talk on small-gauge amateur films from Nazi Germany by film scholar Linda Waack (Freie Universität, Berlin), which drew on Siegfried Kracauer’s notion of history to offer a theoretical framework for the conceptualisation of small-scale findings in relation to large-scale structures. Negotiating the epistemological gap between the small and the large, Linda’s talk developed what could be called a ‘visual microhistory’ through amateur media.

Moderating these transhistorical and interdisciplinary encounters were key researchers in the field: media anthropologist Richard MacDonald (Goldsmiths), who has written extensively on ‘everyday’ and ‘amateur’ uses of film (in post-war Britain and contemporary Thailand), and media historian Lee Grieveson (UCL), author of the forthcoming Cinema and the Wealth of Nations: Media, Capital, and the Liberal World System. Discussions were lively and engaged; the audience, especially in the last two session at Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, socially and professionally diverse (ranging from fellow researchers and artists to interested members of the general public), ensuring that the presented works and research resonated beyond the confines of academic discourse.

To give more permanent form to our findings, we the organisers of the Politics of the Amateur Image workshop series are currently preparing a book proposal for an edited volume comprising the presentations mentioned above as well as a selection of papers presented at related previous events by the organisers.

Excerpts from Francis Gooding’s presentation were published as part of the digital programme of The Photographers’ Gallery, London:

Facebook events: session 1 (, session 2 (, session 3 (  

CHASE funded and associate students are invited to apply for funds to develop and deliver training activites. More information can be found here.