PERPHOTO project intends to explore the multiple interactions between photography and performing arts in theoretical, historical and cultural implications, as well as in the Portuguese and international theatrical practice during the last 40 years. The project is based on the work already developed within the “Theatre and Image” research group at the Centre for Theatre Studies at the School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon. It counts on the experience of the researchers involved and on a highly recognized advisory board to consolidate, within CET, an international reference centre in this research area, as well as to contribute to the definition of a new transdisciplinary research field at the intersection of image and performance.
Throughout the project, three distinct although interconnected lines of research will be developed: Theory, Cartography, Lab.
Since the origins of photography, the relationship with theatre has always been quite deep, despite being based on an apparent paradox and a certain conflict: on the one hand, due to the transitory nature of the performative act, which is opposed to the petrification of the photographic image, and, on the other hand, to the alleged “objectivity” of photography, which contrasts with the fictional nature of theatre.
In spite of this apparent incompatibility, or perhaps because of it, the encounter between theatre and photography opens up a wide and challenging field of experimentation, rich in reciprocal suggestions. Whether in stage photography in its strictest sense, or in the different forms of “mise en scène” and “performances for the camera”, the potential of photography when linked to the performing arts has drawn the attention of several researchers from different disciplinary approaches, such as visual culture, theatre studies and performing art.
Nowadays, all these contributions shape this relationship into a particularly stimulating and dense research field, constituting itself as one of the main issues for the study of photography in its various artistic and social practices, but also in contemporary theatre. However, it is urgent to merge these heterogeneous perspectives into a coherent theoretical reflection. Hence, PERPHOTO’s main objective is the organization of a free-access thematic, critical and collaborative bibliography that assumes itself as a reference to the studies within the scientific areas of the project.
Based on the previous theoretical reflection, PERPHOTO’s research will focus on the Portuguese case in order to carry out a cartography of the theatre photographic practice developed during the last four decades. In this context, it is possible to distinguish different positions in relation to the photographic image, going from a more traditional use of documentation to a more creative interaction with theatrical practice (projection or scenographic construction, presence of the photographic device on stage, etc.). The project will also consider the performative dimension in photographic images and discuss the proximity between these two devices – photography and theatre – in order to contribute to the definition of their territories and borders. To achieve these objectives, a systematic and in-depth survey of the production of theatre photography will be carried out, through the census of images and other materials in libraries, in public and private archives, as well as interviews with the protagonists of this period.
The project aims, among the other goals, to impact theatrical practice and to promote an open and effective dialogue with artists and theatre groups, in order to assess the diversity of discourses produced through the presence of photography or the photographic device in their creative processes.
Based on a practice-as-research approach, and relying on a series of meetings, seminars, and workshops, we will invite selected artists to develop original performances integrating photography, with the scientific follow-up assisted by the project.
Project Identity and Founding
PERPHOTO – Performing the gaze. Crossings between photography and theatre in Portuguese and international context
Host Institution: Centre for Theatre Studies – School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon
Funding: FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
Project reference: PTDC/ART-PER/31693/2017
Project start: 01/10/2018
Project end: 30/09/2021