19.02.2019 Photography, Writing, Letterpress

Workshop, 13.‒14.03.2019, Philipps-Universität Marburg

Although both being visual media, printed texts and photographs are generally perceived as being very different, if not opposed, in
character. Print is seen as a standardized and easily reproducible form of writing; writing, in turn, is considered as a convention-based durable translation of speech, of thoughts and observations into an abstract visual code, most often used as a subjective form of expression. Photography, on the other hand, is understood as a physical imprint of light, as a perceptually accessible trace of the scene it depicts, and is therefore seen, at least to a certain extent, as a medium of realism, truth and objectivity. However, both media appear together so often that writing and photography seem to complement each other. Photographic pictures may act as an illustration of what is written or writing may act as an ›anchor‹ (Barthes) that helps to ›read‹ the trace in the photograph. Especially the presumed fragmentary status of photography as a cut from a spatial and temporal continuum seems to call for the companionship of writing again and again ‒ particularly on the pages of print media: in books, magazines, catalogues, etc. On the printed page, the letterpress is not only a site of verbal discourse, but, by connecting pictures with a certain arrangement of the typeface, the layout may confer pictorial qualities to writing. This complex relationship and its range of phenomena renders scientific research on
this topic not only appealing, but also extremely challenging. The workshop encourages an interdisciplinary exchange in order to discuss possible answers to the primary question how this relationship can be addressed methodologically.

The workshop will set forth the different methodologies, outlining both disciplinary and individual avenues of approach, and will thus show the foundations of the specific researcher’s thinking about this topic. The manifold inter- and multimedial phenomena that appear at the intersections of photography, writing and print find their place alongside the diversity of methods. Examples of these phenomena will be taken from photomontage, the photo-novel, advertising, the illustrated press, captions, photo albums, cinéroman and photocomics.

If you wish to participate, please send an e-mail to  to receive the text reader and to register for the workshop.


The workshop is organized by Deutsches Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte ‒ Bildarchiv Foto Marburg and subproject 5 of the DFG research unit 2288 »Journal Literature. Rules of Format, Visual Design, and Cultures of Reception«.

Dr. Vincent Fröhlich
Prof. Dr. Hubert Locher
Prof. Dr. Jens Ruchatz