The symposium, Photography and the Limits of the Document took the opportunity provided by Tate Modern’s exhibition Cruel and Tender: the Real in the Twentieth Century Photograph to reflect on the photographic document as a form and its limits. The work of photographers and artists represented in the exhibition was considered alongside other images and practices associated with the document in both art and non-art contexts. The conference considered both straight and staged photography, still and moving image, contemporary and earlier twentieth-century practices. Topics discussed included: definitions of documents and documentary, space, topography and politics, archives and memory, ethnicity and self-presentation, and visibility and invisibility. The conference brought together, from Britain, Europe and the USA, major photographers and filmmakers, and a range of theorists from art history and theory, cultural studies and the social sciences. Participants included Lewis Baltz, David Harvey, Alfredo Jaar, Joel Snyder, Fiona Tan, Trinh T. Minh-Ha and others.

Photography and the Limits of the Document – Part 1: Joel Snyder, John Roberts

Welcome and introduction Dominic Willsdon and Steve Edwards, with presentations by Joel Snyder and John Roberts. Discussion, with audience intervention. John Roberts, Joel Snyder. Chair: Steve Edwards.

Steve Edwards is the author of Allegories of Labour: Stories from the Archives of Photography, (forthcoming 2004), and Research Lecturer at the Open University.

Joel Snyder is Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago, a photographer, and a theorist and historian of photography.

John Roberts’ publications on photography include The Art of Interruption (1998), and The Impossible Document (1997).

Photography and the Limits of the Document – Part 2: Nancy Wood, Fiona Tan

Session 2: Archive and Memory includes an introduction with Jessica Evans and presentations by Nancy Wood and Fiona Tan. Plus a discussion, with audience intervention with Nancy Wood, Fiona Tan. Chair: Jessica Evans follows

Nancy Wood is Dean of Critical Studies, CalArts, and has written intensively on the Germaine Tillion’s photographs of colonial Algeria. Fiona Tan is an artist and filmmaker based in the Netherlands. Her work, which often deals with archive issues, was included in Documenta 11.

Photography and the Limits of the Document – Part 3: Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Mark Seally

Session 3: Ethnicity and Construction includes and introduction with Jessica Evans, and presentations by Trinh T. Minh-Ha and Mark Seally, plus a discussion with audience intervention.

Mark Sealy is Director of Autograph and the Association of Black Photographers, and the co-author (with Stuart Hall) of Different (2001). Trinh T. Minh-Ha is a filmmaker, writer and composer, and is Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

Photography and the Limits of the Document – Part 4: Lewis Baltz, David Harvey

Session 4 includes an introduction with Steve Edwards and presentations by Lewis Baltz and David Harvey followed by a discussion with audience intervention.

Lewis Baltz is a photographer for whom industrial society and its detritus is a central theme. His work features in Cruel and Tender. David Harvey is Distinguished Professor in Anthropology at City University New York, and the author of Spaces of Hope (2000).

Photography and the Limits of the Document – Part 5: Blake Stimson, Robert Linsley

Session 5 includes an introduction with Dominic Willsdon and presentations by Blake Stimson and Robert Linsley, plus a discussion, with audience intervention.

Blake Stimson is Assistant Professor of Art at the University of California, Davis, and co-editor of Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (1999). Robert Linsley is an artist and critic based in Toronto. His recent work includes the photo book South Granville (2002).

Photography and the Limits of the Document – Part 6: Alfredo Jaar

Session 6 includes an introduction with Dominic Willsdon and presentation by Alfredo Jaar, followed by a plenary discussion Alfredo Jaar, Joel Snyder, Trinh T. Minh-Ha. Chair: Steve Edwards.

Alfredo Jaar is an artist who works in photography and installation, and has shown internationally, including at the Venice Biennale and Documenta 11.