Theatre, performance studies and photography: a history of permanent contamination

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From its very beginning photography has always held a tense relation with theatre practice, both media influencing and contaminating each other in a permanent and systematic way. At the same time, both are traditionally situated at opposite ends of a continuum in which the degree of medium specificity is taken as a pivotal point of reference. Under the influence of performance studies on the one hand, and the accelerating hybridisation of theatre practice on the other, this traditional twofold distinction has been increasingly questioned. Within theatre history and performance studies (the scope of which is not solely defined by contemporary forms of theatricality), photography and more specifically theatre photography occupy a privileged place: they are no longer considered to be a theatrical 'residue', but are, on the contrary, regarded as an integral part of a visual history, of a cultural history, which mainly focuses on the place of theatre in society. At the same time, theatre photography is an integral part of the signification process which is at the very heart of performance studies, contaminating the process of decoding and contributing to the constitution of the expectancy horizon of a public. This article will investigate the different aspects of interference between performance studies, theatre history and photography by means of different concrete examples taken from theatre's photographic heritage.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2009

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