Other People’s Stories: Bringing Public-Generated Photography into the Contemporary Art Museum

Areti Galani, Alexandra Moschovi


Constituting the ‘defining other’ of art photography, amateur photographic practices have long been neglected or specifically excluded from official histories of photography. Even the term ‘amateur’ has historically been characterized by semantic ambiguity. In recent years, however, contemporary amateur photographs have been capturing the art curatorial imagination. This is often motivated by the institutional and political impetus to engage with personal, local stories, rather than official, national narratives alone. Amateur photographs, with their apparent rawness and immediacy may afford the art museum with a more credible record of ‘real life’ and enable the display of polyvocal narratives. Furthermore, the changing digital media landscape has opened up opportunities for art museums to reach new audiences through public-contributed content. In response to these developments, this article asks: How has amateur photography acquired a protagonist role in contemporary art museum displays? Drawing on contrasting case studies of exhibitions in the US and Europe, which have incorporated user-contributed photographic content in their displays, this article discusses how everyday photographic creativity and the raw materials of people’s stories serve as a means to interact with institutionally constructed histories of photography.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Areti Galani, Alexandra Moschovi

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360