The Social Turn: Collingwood Studio

How can socially engaged photography attend to the politics of collaboration and representation in a reflexive and productive way?


“You never look at me from the place from which I see you.”

– Lacan, 1977

“It is possible that the interaction of a photography shoot not be a robbery or a self-portrait. It is possible to photograph something other than the spectacle of a fire.”

– Dantou, 2015


Creative practitioners are increasingly collaborating with each other and with communities in response to the excesses of individualism, the commodification of art, and a desire for meaningful connections. This ‘social turn’ in art and photography has renewed conversations about the role of creative practice in the community, the ethics of collaboration, the contexts of production, and the potential benefits of increased civic participation.

This studio is an inquiry into photography’s contribution to social life, and the different ways in which collaboration can be undertaken with communities, individuals, and organisations. Students will participate in a 12-week residency in Collingwood, where they will develop—through a process of co- conceptualisation—a series of group projects in consultation with community members and partners.

Meaningful engagement with the local community will drive the inquiry, and lectorials, exercises, workshops, and readings exploring the ‘social turn’ in art and photography will support a reflexive and critical learning environment. Group critiques will place emphasis on ethical relationships, integrity of process, quality of outcomes and sustainability. Project outcomes are not pre-determined but it is envisaged that the projects (e.g photobooks, social histories, exhibitions, projections) will be presented in the community in which they were made.

Further Information:
A high level of commitment and initiative is required in addition to a willingnessto participate in collaborative and group work. The studio will take place in Collingwood as part of a new RMIT Photography off-site community engagement initiative. Students will have access to a workspace and photographic equipment and facilities.



  • Develop skills in active listening and relational ethics.
  • Produce a project in collaboration with community partners.
  • Demonstrate emerging expertise in discourses related to the politics of representation and collaborative practices.