The Staged and Constructed Image

An Illustrated Talk on Photography by Ruth Rosengarten
Moderator: Ravi Agarwal
Respondents: Prashant Panjiar & Devika Daulet-Singh

8 November 2016 | Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi


Art historian Ruth Rosengarten was invited by SSAF to present an illustrated talk on the ‘The Staged and Constructed Image’ on 8 November 2016. Prashant Panjiar and Devika Daulet-Singh were the respondents Ravi Agarwal moderated the discussion. This programme was held in association with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.


The link between photography and the real is a forceful one, entrenched both historically and culturally: ‘documentary’ is the default mode of photography. In this talk, I shall explore the contemporary modes of constructed and staged photography, which oppose this connection. As its moniker suggests, ‘staged photography’ entails the elaborate setting up of a scenario before the action of the shutter fixes the capture. ‘Constructed photography’, sometimes also called ‘post-photography’, entails the working of one or more photographic images into a revised or new image; but it might also entail processes that do not, in effect, require the use of a camera at all. While staged photography began to enjoy popularity in the 1980s and 90s, with the postmodern probing of medium-specificity and the structures and tropes of representation, constructed photography has come into its own with digital post-production, from the early twenty-first century. Nevertheless, arguably, constructed photography pre-existed the digital age as photomontage, and staged photography has, in some senses, always been with us in the still life and portrait genres. I shall be looking at the points of contact and overlap between staged and constructed photography, and also at the ways in which there are persistent cultural continuities in photographic practice, despite enormous technological changes. My examples will be almost all of contemporary photographic works, gathered from the work of international practitioners.

–Ruth Rosengarten


Ruth Rosengarten ( is artist, art historian and freelance writer/researcher, curator. She holds a doctorate from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. Born in Israel, she has lived in South Africa, London and Portugal. She now lives and works in Cambridgeshire, UK. Currently, she is Research Associate, Visual Identities in Art and Design, University of Johannesburg. Research interests and studio work focus on photographic practices: staged and constructed photography, family albums and archives, representations of the ill and the dying and evocative objects. Most recent curatorial project: From Memory to Archive, Berardo Museum, Lisbon, 2014. Forthcoming: ‘From Family Album, via Archive, to Photographic Installation in the Digital Era: The Making of Vivan Sundaram’s Re-Take of Amrita’, in Critical Arts, special issue provisionally titled (Vernacular) Photography from India and Africa: Collections, Preservation, Dialogue, February 2018. She reviews photographic exhibitions in the UK, in the journal Photography & Culture, and contemporary art exhibitions on the online journal London Grip.