Synthetic Documents: Jo Spence’s “self” portraiture, from The Faces Group to the Polysnappers: WORKSHOP ORGANISED BY BIRKBECK, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

11 March 2023 
£6 per person 3.00 - 5.00PM




The photographer Jo Spence (1934 – 1992) is closely associated with the radical London left of the 1970s and 1980s and particularly feminist politics. The phrase “the personal is political,” often deployed to summarise some of the aims of the Women’s Liberation Movement, invokes the idea of self-representation as a primary political goal, but what does "the personal” mean in a context of collective political organisation and art production? This workshop invites participants to take a long view of Spence’s self-portraiture, beginning with Spence’s early collaboration with Terry Dennett, as well as her work with female-only photography collectives, including the Faces Group and The Polysnappers. Through the handling and discussion of documents from the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive, and a presentation on the history of Spence’s collaborations by curator and writer Alexandra Symons-Sutcliffe, the workshop aims to unpack the role of the personal in collective political identity both in the 1970s and 1980s, and today within our changed political and media landscape.


Attendees are invited to bring images they classify as self-portraiture, of themselves or others, to use in the group discussion which includes our own relationships with photography and ideas about political representation as well as the lessons we can learn from Spence. 


Bio: Alexandra Symons-Sutcliffe is a curator and writer, usually based in London, where she is a Ph.D. candidate at Birkbeck University writing a dissertation on Jo Spence and Terry Dennett. Currently, she is in residency at AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions in Paris where she is working on a project focused on the connections between British and German radical left-wing culture of the 1970s. 


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Jo Spence Workshop
Synthetic Documents: Jo Spence’s “self” portraiture, from The Faces Group to the Polysnappers
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