Geoffrey Batchen

Professor School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Teaching in 2017

Prof Geoffrey Batchen profile picture


PhD Syd

Career summary and research interests

Geoffrey Batchen's work as a teacher, writer and curator focuses on the history of photography. He is particularly interested in the way that photography mediates every other aspect of modern life, whether we're talking about sex or war, atoms or planets, commerce or art. This makes photography a particularly challenging phenomenon to study and a lot of Geoff's work addresses the methodological challenge that this study poses for art history. Besides being an expert in the general theory and historiography of photography, Geoff has helped to pioneer the study of vernacular photography (photographs not intended as art, such as snapshots, commercial photos, and objects like photographic jewellery).

Batchen has published extensively, in eighteen languages to date. He is the author of Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (1997, with subsequent translations into Spanish, Korean and Japanese, and a forthcoming one in Slovenian), Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (2001), Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance (2004), William Henry Fox Talbot (2008), What of Shoes: Van Gogh and Art History (2009, in German and English), and Suspending Time: Life, Photography, Death (2010, in Japanese and English). He has also edited an anthology of essays titled Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida (2009) and co-edited another titled Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis (2012).

Over the past twenty-five years, Geoff has also been involved in the international art world as a curator and editor. He has, for example, worked on exhibitions in Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and the United States and edited academic journals in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. He has given public lectures all over the world and taught in a number of tertiary institutions in Australia and the US, including the University of California San Diego, the University of New Mexico and the Doctoral Program in Art History at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Geoff joined the Victoria Art History programme as professor in July 2010.

Current research projects

Geoff is currently working on a number of projects. These include a book and virtual exhibition devoted to the first two commercial photography studios to open in Britain, established by Richard Beard and Antoine Claudet in London in 1841. He is also writing a book about the implications of photography's reproducibility and co-editing another about atrocity photographs.

Selected publications


Co-editor, Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis (London: Reaktion Books, 2012).

Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (The MIT Press, 1997).

Foreign Language translations of Burning with Desire: Arder En Deseos: La Concepción de la Fotografía (Barcelona: Gustavo Gili, 2004).

Taoruneun Yokmang: Sajineui Kokohak (Seoul: Imagine Books, 2006).

Setsubou ni Moyeru: Shashin no Hatsuan (Tokyo: Seikyusha, 2010), forthcoming.

Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (The MIT Press, 2001).

Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance (Van Gogh Museum & Princeton Architectural Press, 2004).

William Henry Fox Talbot (Phaidon, 2008).

What of Shoes?: Van Gogh and Art History (Cologne: Seemann Henschel, 2009).

Editor, Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009).

Suspending Time: Life, Photography, Death (Japan: Izu PhotoMuseum, 2010).

Book chapters

‘Ere the substance fade: photography and hair jewellery,’ in Sandra Dudley ed., Museum Objects: Experiencing the Properties of Things (London: Routledge, 2012), 72-89.

Extract from ‘Phantasm: Digital Imaging and the Death of Photography,’ in Sri-Kartini Leet ed., Reading Photography: A Sourcebook of Critical Texts 1921-2000 (Farnham: Lund Humphry, 2011), 350-352.

‘Looking Askance,’ in Geoffrey Batchen, Mick Gidley, Nancy K. Miller, and Jay Prosser eds., Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis (London: Reaktion Press, 2012), 227-240.

From 'For an Impossible Realism: an interview with Victor Burgin,’ in Victor Burgin ed., Parallel Texts: Interviews and Interventions about Art (London: Reaktion Books, 2011), 84-95.

'Nadenken over kritiek', in Hilde Van Gelder and Laurens Dhaenens eds. Kunstkritiek: Standputen rond beeldende kusten uit België en Nederland in een international perspectief (1985-2010) (Amsterdam University Press and Lannoo Campus, 2010), 261-268.

'Phantasm: Digital Imaging and the Death of Photography,' in Edward A Shanken ed, Art and Electronic Media (Phaidon, 2009), 209-211.

'Camera Lucida: Another Little History of Photography,' in Johann Swinnen ed, The Weight of Photography (Brussels: Academic and Scientific Publishers, 2010), 191-210.

'Dreams of Ordinary Life: Cartes-de-visite and the Bourgeois Imagination,' in JJ Long, Andrea Noble and Edward Welch eds, Photography: Theoretical Snapshots (Routledge, 2009), 80-97.

'Fuuro anterior: La Historia del Arte y la instantánea/Previous Future: Art History and the Snapshot,' in Joan Fontcuberta ed, Soñaråan los androides con cåamaras fotográficas?/Do Androids Dream of Cameras? (Madrid: Secretaría General Técnica, 2008), 184-207.

'Camera Lucida: Another Little History of Photography,' in Robin Kelsey and Blake Stimson eds, The Meaning of Photography (Williamstown, MA: Clark Studies in the Visual Arts, 2008), 76-91.

'This Haunting,' in James Elkins ed, Photography Theory (New York: Routledge, 2007), 284-286.

'Thomas Wedgwood,' 'Vernacular Photography,' 'Antecedents,' in John Hannavy ed, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (New York: Routledge, 2007), 668-674, 1443-1446, 1482-1483.

'A Arte de Arquivar,' ['The Art of Archiving'], in Ricardo Nicolau ed, Fotografia na Arte: De Ferramenta a Paradigma [Art and Photography] (Porto: Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art/Público, April 2006), 138-141.

'Photography by the Numbers,' Joan Fontcuberta: Orogenesis (New York: Aperture Books, 2005), 9-13.

'A Latticed Window,' in Sophie Howarth ed., Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs (London: Tate Modern, 2005), 15-21.

'Electricity Made Visible,' in Wendy Hui Kyong Chun & Thomas Keenan eds, New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (New York: Routledge, 2006), 27-44.

Catalogue essays

‘Forever Dark,’ Dark Sky (Wellington: Adam Art Gallery, 2012), 4-39.

‘Introduction,’ Shadowgraphs: Photographic Portraits by Len Lye (Wellington: Adam Art Gallery, 2011), 4-5.

‘Revenant,’ in Taryn Simon, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII (London: Tate Modern and Mack, 2011), 739-753.

'Life and Death,' in Geoffrey Batchen ed., Suspending Time: Life, Photography, Death (Japan: Izu PhotoMuseum, 2010), 28-129.

'An Almost Unlimited Variety: Photography and Sculpture in the Nineteenth Century,' in Roxana Marcoci ed, The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010), 20-26.

'Evocations: The Art of Anne Ferran,' in Craig Judd ed, Anne Ferran: the ground, the air (Hobart: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 2008), 7-16.

'The Art of Business,' in Steven Kasher ed, America and the Tintype (New York: International Center of Photography and Steidl, 2008), 17-24.

'Endurance: the photographs of Harold Cazneaux,' in Natasha Bullock ed, Harold Cazneaux: Artist in Photography (Sydney: Art Gallery of NSW, 2008), 122-131.

'From Infinity to Zero,' in Marvin Heiferman ed, Now is Then: Snapshots from the Maresca Collection (The Newark Museum/Princeton Architectural Press, 2008), 120-130.

'Serious Amateur' and 'Un amateur éclairé,' in Piotr Uklansky, The Joy of Photography (Strasbourg: Musee d'art contemporain and Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2007), 34-43, 60-71.

'From Elsewhere,' in Nathalie Latham, Love It and Leave It: Australia's Creative Diaspora (T & G Publishing and National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2007), 10-11, 150-151.

'Cancellation,' and 'Cancelación', in Douglas Fogle ed, The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography 1960-1982 (exhibition catalogue, Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2004), 62-67.

Journal articles

Special Issue of Infra-Mince devoted to the work of Geoffrey Batchen: Patrick Talbot, ‘Geoffrey Batchen, repères biographiques et introduction,’ Arnaud Claass, ‘Les éternels retours de la photographie,’ Geoffrey Batchen, ‘Epitaphe’ (translation by Patrick Talbot), Brian Dillon ‘La photographie vernaculaire: “Ne m’oubliez pas,” une interview de Geoffrey Batchen’ (translation by Patrick Talbot), Joan Fontcuberta, ‘Paysages de paysages ou l’art en tant en tant que carte’ (edited and translated by Patrick Talbot), Geoffrey Batchen,’La photographie par les nombres’ (translation by Patrick Talbot), Infra-Mince: revue de photographie, 7 (Arles, June 2012), 25-91.

‘Ektoplazma: Dijital Cagda Fotograf,’ [Ectoplasm: Photography in the Digital Age], IFSAK: Fotograf ve Sinema Dergisi, 32: 2 (Istanbul, 2012), 98-103.

Special Section: Swedish translations by Cecilia Grönberg of ‘Guilty Pleasures,’ ‘Vardagliga-Lokala Fotografier’ [Vernacular Photographies], ‘Proem,’ along with “Photography, History, Curating: A Conversation with Geoffrey Batchen (interview with Cecilia Grönberg, May 5, 2010)’, in Jonas Magnusson and Cecilia Grönberg eds., OEI: DDDD [Dokument Dispositiv Deskription Diskurs] (Stockholm, 2011), 487-519.

‘Surreptitious Pictures,’ Artlink, 31: 3 (Adelaide, 2011), 32-34.

‘Revenant’, Foam, No. 27 (Amsterdam, Summer 2011), 111-114.

'Judging a Book by its Cover,' Cabinet, #36 (Winter 2009-2010), 36-41.

'The Labor of Photography,' Victorian Literature and Culture 37:1 (2009), 292-296.

'Forstaelsens former,' and 'Modes of Apprehension,' Filter, #3 (Denmark, Summer 2009), 56-64, 80-83, 97-99.

'Snapshots: Art History and the Ethnographic Turn,' Photographies 1: 2 (London, September 2008), 121-142.

'Les Snapshots: L'histoire de l'arte et le tournant ethnographie,' Etudes Photographique, No. 22 (Paris, 2008), 4-37.

Feature: 'Interview, with Yoshiaki Kai' (2008), 'A Philosophical Window' (2002), 'Snapshots: Art History and the Ethnographic Turn' (2007), translated into Japanese by Osamu Maekawa and Yoshiaki Kai, 'Annotated Bibliography' (by Yoshiaki Kai), 'Genealogy of Photography: Batchen's Theory of Photography' (by Osamu Maekawa), Photographers' Gallery Press, No. 7 (Tokyo, 2008), 68-140.

'Zviditelnei elektrini' [Electricity Made Visible], Teorie Vedy/Theory of Science, 15: 2 (2006), 51-76.

'Individualism and Conformity: Photographic Portraiture in the Nineteenth Century,' New York Journal of American History (Spring/Summer 2006), 10-27

Curated exhibitions

'Suspending Time: Life-Photography-Death', (with Assistant Curator Yoshiaki Kai), Izu Photo Museum, Shizuoko, Japan, January 30 – May 12, 2010

'Van Goghs Schuhe [Van Gogh's Shoes]', Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, September 17, 2009 – January 10, 2010

'Deadpan: Photography, History, Politics', (Guest Curated with Jeehey Kim and Jung Joon Lee), The Amie and Tony James Gallery, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, May 16 – June 28, 2008

'Portraits of Grief', The Graduate Center, City University of New York, November 30 – December 27, 2005

'Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance', Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, March 26 – June 6, 2004

National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavik, October 23 – January 6, 2004

National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford, January 28 – May 2, 2005

International Center of Photography, New York, June 17 – September 4, 2005

Administrative responsibilities

Postgraduate coordinator (MA and PhD) Trimester 2, 2016.