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City Portraits

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

Paul Sweetman (Developer), Laura Hensser (Photographer)

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSouthampton
PublisherJohn Hansard Gallery
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 2010

King's Authors


City Portraits was a major photographic exhibition which took place in Southampton in Autumn 2010, and was underpinned by and formed a key component of Paul Sweetman’s research into visual methods, ethics and recognition. It reflected and helped to develop Sweetman’s work on an ethics of recognition, as opposed to protection or concealment, questioning standard assumptions about anonymity and confidentiality in social and cultural research. It demonstrated how, in conjunction with artistic practice, such research can challenge stereotypical forms of representation and offer a form of recognition reflecting political theories of recognition associated with figures such as Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth. It was co-funded by the Creative Campus Initiative, part of the Cultural Olympiad, as a means of bringing research into the public domain, and John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton, as part of their aim to bring world-class art into the heart of the City. Centred in and around the newly refurbished Guildhall Square, it formed a key part of the inauguration of Southampton’s new Cultural Quarter.
The exhibition was comprised of 20 life-sized, double-sided portraits of local residents on banners in the city centre. Participants were chosen to reflect and celebrate the diversity of the City’s inhabitants, and to bring them squarely into the heart of the Cultural Quarter. It was developed in conjunction with photographer Laura Hensser and the Hansard Gallery team, with Sweetman centrally involved throughout: from conception, initial planning and the securing of funding to photography sessions, installation, launch and exhibition. It was followed by focus groups with participants exploring their experiences of having taken part. The portraits were subsequently re-exhibited with accompanying panel discussion as part of King’s Arts and Humanities Festival in October 2011, and papers presented at conferences and symposia including the Second International Visual Methods Conference, Open University, September 2011.

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