Urban Encounters: Routes and Transitions - Part 1

This third annual conference addresses how photographic practices and archives intersect with an understanding of local and global routes as ‘places’, considering the temporality of place and the cross-cultural juxtaposition of locales.

Urban Encounters: Routes and Transitions - Part 2

This third annual conference addresses how photographic practices and archives intersect with an understanding of local and global routes as ‘places’, considering the temporality of place and the cross-cultural juxtaposition of locales.

Urban Encounters: Routes and Transitions - Part 3

This third annual conference addresses how photographic practices and archives intersect with an understanding of local and global routes as ‘places’, considering the temporality of place and the cross-cultural juxtaposition of locales.

Urban Encounters: Routes and Transitions - Part 4

This third annual conference addresses how photographic practices and archives intersect with an understanding of local and global routes as ‘places’, considering the temporality of place and the cross-cultural juxtaposition of locales.

Urban Encounters: Routes and Transitions explores the dialogue and practice of visual urbanism to bring together international researchers, academics, photographers and artists concerned with the transitional nature of contemporary urban space. This third annual conference will address how photographic practices and archives intersect with an understanding of local and global routes as ‘places’, considering the temporality of place and the cross-cultural juxtaposition of locales.

This conference approaches the city as a palimpsest of routes and its panels will consider local, global and remembered routes through film, photography and other visual urbanist approaches. Considering the cultural geographies of migration, change, place, identity and the process of making transitions, the conference will facilitate an on-going interdisciplinary dialogue about the growing field of urban visual practice, method and enquiry.

Participants include: Michael Keith, Nirmal Puwar, Kuldip Powar, Suki Ali, Paul Goodwin, Manuel Vazquez, Yazan Al-Khalili, Joseph Heathcott, Zeynep Turan, Tristan Fennell, Lars Johansson, Andrea Luka Zimmerman, Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, Paul Halliday and more. The keynote will be the photographer Camilo Jose Vergara.

This symposium is the centre of the Urban Encounters series, which takes place in several UK-based and international locations this spring, including the London galleries Photofusion and Viewfinder, and at the events Urban Encounters: City to Sea at Bognor Regis, UK in June and Urban Encounters at the Festival of the Image, Manizales, Colombia. Visit Urban Encounters for more information.

Organised with the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths, University of London


Camilo Vergara [keynote speaker] is a Chilean-born photographer, writer, and documentarian who lives and works in New York City. Since 1977 he has been documenting changes in the urban landscape, focusing on American slums and decaying urban environments, along the way becoming an “archivist of decline,” a documentarian of walls, buildings, and entire city blocks. His work is noted for picturing the same buildings and neighborhoods multiple times over many years, and in so doing recording the changing nature of the city itself. Vergara’s photographs tell how the American inner city evolved and what it gained and lost in the process. He has published several books, including American Ruins (Monacelli, 1999), The Twin Towers Remembered (Princeton Architectural Press, 2001), and How the Other Half Worships (Rutgers University Press, 2005), His book The American Ghetto (Rutgers University Press, 1997) won the Robert E. Park Award of the American Sociological Association. In 2002 Vergara was awarded a “genius” award by the MacArthur Foundation. His work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at, among others, the National Building Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Vergara also served as a fellow of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers University.

Michael Keith is Director of the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society and holds a personal chair in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oxford.  COMPAS works on migration and its dynamics and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as the principal migration research centre in the UK.  He was formerly (until 2008) the Director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) and Head of the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London.   CUCR hosted over £4 million of funded research in the last decade, including thirteen awards from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Michael Keith’s own research has focused on issues of urbanism, city change and multiculture.  He is currently developing work on forms of urbanism and cultural change in the UK and Europe and the dynamics of social and economic transition in Shanghai and Beijing in an ESRC World Economy and Finance programme project with Scott Lash considering new economic sociologies of China.  He has written a number of books including, most recently ‘After the Cosmopolitan: Multicultural cities and the future of racism’ (published in June 2005). Michael Keith was also for twelve years (until 2006) an elected politician in east London and served variously over the last decade as Leader (for five years) and Cabinet member in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets with responsibility for Regeneration and Community Partnerships (for six years).  He was also the chair of Thames Gateway London Partnership (2000-2006), which operates at a sub-regional level addressing the largest regeneration project in contemporary Europe.  Most recently he served as a Commissioner on the government’s national Commission on Integration and Cohesion, set up by the Prime Minister Tony Blair in the wake of the 7th July bombings of 2005 (‘7/7’) in London which reported to central government in 2007.

Yazan Khalili received a degree in architecture from Birzeit University in 2003, and is currently starting a Masters in the Research Architecture program at Goldsmith, London. His photography explores the relationship between the social and spatial elements of “built-environments.” He is currently finishing his photography/research book “The Landscape of Light and Darkness”.

Nirmal Puwar is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Co-Director of the Methods Lab at Goldsmiths, working with creative critical methodologies collaboratively, beyond academia. Her publications include the book Space Invaders: race, gender and bodies out of place (2004, Berg). She has co-edited several collections, including South Asian Women in the Diaspora (2003, Berg) with P. Raghuram, a Special Issue of the journal Fashion Theory on Orientalism, with N. Bhatia, a collection on Intimacy in Research for the journal The History of the Human Sciences, with M. Fraser (2008) and an edited issue that makes the case for a Post-colonial Bourdieu in the journal Sociological Review with L. Back and A. Haddour (2009). She is on the editorial team for the journal Feminist Review and on the board of the women artists archive MAKE. Her work has been translated into German, Italian, French and Brazilian Portuguese. She has led a number of research projects funded by the AHRC, ESRC, the British Academy, as well as LCACE. For further details see http://www.gold.ac.uk/methods-lab/

Kuldip Powar is a film Director who has worked on various film projects that explore the lives of Asian people in Britain. He studied Art & Design at Central St Martins College and has a Post Graduate Certificate In Education, Art & Design from Middlesex University. Kuldip has also studied for a Raindance Diploma in Directing. Completed a short film piece Remembrance (2005) funded by the BFI ‘Screen Rootz’ Initiative, poetically exploring post-colonial memory of WWII vis-à-vis personal testimony and narrative. Co-Directed the film, Kabhi Ritz Kabhie Palladium (2003) about the social cinema scenes amongst the South Asian diaspora communities of Coventry, for an Herbert Art Gallery & Museum exhibition. Has experience in conducting oral and visual ethnographies across Britain in Southall. He is able to converse in Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi. Directed and archive and oral history documentary (funded by the MLA) titled For the Record: the social life of Indian vinyl in Southall (2008), which was recently screened at The British Library. Kuldip is also a member of the  ‘Music In Museums’ meeting group (programmed by the MLA) and has given presentations at The Horniman Museum and The Royal College of Music. He has worked with The Royal Geographical Society on various projects. Kuldip also works for the Sorrell Foundation on the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme. He has worked with Goldsmiths University and Nitin Sawhney on his latest film ‘Unravelling’(2008)-a journey into war, memory & loss, funded by the ARHC. This film was selected for the Re-Orient festival in Stockholm and The Spinning Wheel Sikh Film Festival 2008 in Hollywood. ’Unravelling’ also won the Best Short Film at the 2009 Sikh International Film Festival-New York as well as being screened at IWM, NAM, RIBA & the V&A.

Suki Ali is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Suki’s research interests encompass issues of racialisation and embodiment, families, mixedness and visual culture. She is interested in feminist postcolonial theory and its potentials for social research, and in the return of racial science. Her work centralises questions of ‘intersectionality’ and issues of social justice and inequality. Her publications include a guest-edited Special Issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies,  Vol 30(2), on ‘Feminism and Postcolonialism: Knowledge/Politics’(2007) and Mixed Race Post Race: Gender New Ethnicities and Cultural Practices (2003), Berg.

Manuel Vazquez focuses on exposure to city life through his photographic work. Manuel has participated in group exhibitions in New York, UK, Spain, Canada, Italy and Colombia and was selected among the FLASH FORWARD Emerging Photographers in 2009 as well as featuring in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries in 2008, where he exhibited pieces of the “Traces” series at the Liverpool Biennial. Manuel has been a freelance photographer since 2005, before which he studied Economics in his home country, Colombia. Moving to Spain in 2001 he began his studies in photography, he has attended workshops at the International Center of Photography and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Having recently completed an MA in Photography and Urban Culture at Goldsmiths University, he lives and works in London. 

Michael McMillan is a writer, playwright, curator/installation artist and academic of Vincentian parentage. His critically acclaimed “The ‘West Indian’ Front Room” (Geffrye Museum 2005-06) had over 35,000 visitors and inspired the BBC4 documentary “Tales from the front room”. See  www.thefrontroom.org “The Front Room: Migrant Aesthetics in the Home” will be published by Black Dog in October 2009. He is lead designer on The Southall Story (South Bank Centre April-May 2010) and completing a Phd at Middlesex University.

Joseph Heathcott is a writer, curator, photographer, and educator living in New York, where he teaches at The New School and serves as chair of urban studies.  His primary interest is in the design, social history, and civic culture of the twentieth century metropolis.  Prof. Heathcott’s work has appeared in a wide range of formats, including exhibits, magazines, academic publications, and journals of opinion.  His research on the social and design history of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe public housing project led to a traveling exhibit titled Vertical City, a documentary film, and a book currently nearing completion with University of Chicago Press.  His photography exhibit Post-Acropolis Metropolis, created for the Deutsche-Amerikanische-Zentrum, is currently on display at the Town Hall Gallery in Stuttgart, Germany.  His next project is a major exhibition on Documerica, the EPA’s environmental photography program from 1972-1976.  Prof. Heathcott has been awarded fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Erasmus Institute, the Mellon Foundation, and the Brown Center for the Humanities, and he was recently named as U.S. Distinguished Fulbright Chair at the University of the Arts in London for the academic year 2010-2011.

Tristan Fennell works with photography and installation to explore the conflict and collusion between individuals and the surrounding urban landscapes. He received an MA from the CUCR, Goldsmiths College in 2007. Tristan’s work has been exhibited at the Singapore International Photography Festival 2008, Les Rencontres d‘Arles 2009 and East London Photography festival 2009. He is a member of Fugitive Images.

Andrea Zimmerman received her practice based PhD in filmmaking at Central Saint Martins in 2007. She uses filmmaking, photography and text to explore the grey zone between public and private memory. Andrea is a founding member of Vision Machine that produced The Globalisation Tapes, Saltfish: The Soap Opera, Disaster Recovery Plan, The Delmarva Chicken of Tomorrow, as well as academic presentations and gallery exhibitions. She is also a founding Member of Fugitive Images.

Lasse Johansson graduated from Goldsmiths 2008 with an MA in Photography and Urban Cultures. By means of filmmaking, photography and interventions into public space he explores the formations of public spaces and the identities they give rise to. He has curated and produced large-scale public art works, most notably Contemplation Room in Copenhagen. Currently he is working on a documentary about Haggerston & Kingsland Estate. He is a founding member of Fugitive Images.


Caroline Knowles is the Director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) and Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London. She in the author (with Douglas Harper) of Hong Kong: Migrant Lives, Landscapes and Journeys (2010) Chicago University Press. She is also the author of Race and Social Analysis (2003) Sage, and Bedlam on the Streets (2000) Routledge. She is joint editor of Making Race Matter (2005) with Claire Alexander, Palgrave and Picturing the Social Landscape (2004) with Paul Sweetman, Routledge.

Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani is a photographer, curator and Visiting Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at the New School in New York. Co-founder of the Urban Encounters conference, she works across and between disciplines, and strives to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue. She explores the experience of everyday life in public and home spaces through photographic, ethnographic and narrative work and has worked on projects in London, Buenos Aires, San Francisco and New York. She has exhibited and curated at institutions including the Center for Architecture New York, MIT and UC Berkeley. Gabrielle received her PhD from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London. She is co-founder of the interdisciplinary practice on dialogue, place and design, Buscada. Her work can be seen at www.buscada.com.

Paul Halliday is a photographer, filmmaker and sociologist based at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He studied social anthropology and art history at Goldsmiths College and Oxford University. He originally trained in photojournalism and fine art film at the London College of Communication, and Central Saint Martins Art College. His professional experience includes having directed a Channel Four TV documentary, freelance photographic projects for The Guardian and Independent Magazine, along with various media and arts consultancies. He is also a former media advisor for the British Refugee Council. He completed a twenty-year photographic project in 2006, about London’s street cultures, on which he gave a talk at Tate Modern, and is currently completing a photographic project about global cities. Further details about his London work are at http://www.paulhalliday.org/. Paul is the course leader of the MA in Photography and Urban Cultures, a Director of Photofusion, and co-founder of the Urban Encounters conference.

Paul Goodwin is a theorist, curator and urban researcher. He is Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths College and Cross Cultural Curator at Tate Britain. His current curatorial and research work engages questions of migration, globalisation and the production of alternative urban architectures. In 2007 he curated Peckham Rising at the Sassoon Gallery in South London, an exhibition of urban photography and sound that explored media representations and spatial practices in an inner city neighbourhood. With the artist Monica de Miranda, he has just completed a collaborative project (exhibition, film programme and a book) called ‘Underconstruction’, that deployed contemporary art strategies (photography, installation, socially engaged collaborations) and urban theory to map the complex relationship between the shanty towns and the city centre in Lisbon, Portugal. Selections of this work at http://www.underconstruction.cc/. At Tate, Paul creates platforms for cultural engagement by programming talks, symposia, workshops and live art events including The Status of Difference (ideas/debate series, 2008-2010),Conversation Pieces (ongoing artist talks series), Global Modernities (Tate Triennial conference, March 2009) and Polish Connections (Late at Tate, May 2009).