Collaboration A Potential History of Photography

Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Wendy Ewald, Susan Meiselas, Leigh Raiford, Laura Wexler

A radical new history of photography from a team of esteemed writers and thinkers that focuses on the complex collaborations between photographer and subject.

Collaboration is a groundbreaking publication, by five great thinkers and practitioners in photography, in collaboration with hundreds of photographers, writers, critics, artists, and academics. This collection uses the lens of collaboration to challenge dominant narratives around photographic history and authorship. Working with an accumulation of more than six hundred photographs, each entry breaks apart photography’s "single creator" tradition by bringing to light tangible traces of collaboration—the various relationships, exchanges, and interactions that occur in the making of any photograph and in the shaping, undoing and transforming archives.

The book explores themes such as coercion and cooperation, friendship and exploitation, shared interests and competition, and rivalry or antagonistic partnership. Collaboration foregrounds key issues facing photography, including gender, race, and societal hierarchies/divisions—and their role in shaping and reshaping identities and communities, and provoking resistance or conformity.

The photographs are presented alongside quotes, testimonies, and short texts offering perspectives on the array of themes, geographies, contexts, and events. The editors introduce each cluster of projects by providing a framework to understand and decode the complex politics, temporalities, and potentialities of photography. Collaboration reconstructs the infrastructure of photography as a collaborative practice and offers a pedagogical tool for practitioners and scholars of photography.


[An] excellent challenge to the 'single creator' view of photography… The collection also astutely illustrates how photography—even when ostensibly deployed to oppress—can subtly critique power structures and dominant cultural narratives… Enriched by the volume's incisive social commentary, these striking images leave a mark.

— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

An invigorating alternative to traditional ways of understanding the history of photography.

— Library Journal

A book that looks at photography using an expanded angle…to use as a challenge to your ideas of what photography is and how it is being made… The breadth and richness of the material covered provides incredible rewards, in particular since the reach is global. If you're only familiar with your standard Western photography, your eyes will be opened to a lot of other photography (and thinking)… An absolutely invaluable and essential book that, ideally, will find its way not only into the studios of photographers but especially into the classrooms of photography schools. From now on, anyone studying to get a masters will have no excuse any longer for not knowing that photography's standard model of authorship is flawed. The most exciting aspect of the book is the fact that it points out ways forward… Highly recommended.

— Conscientious Photography Magazine

A captivating and essential resource.

— Hyperallergic


Ariella Aïsha Azoulay


Ariella Aisha Azoulay is Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Comparative Literature at Brown University.

Wendy Ewald


Wendy Ewald is a photographer who has long collaborated on art projects throughout the world.

Susan Meiselas


Susan Meiselas is a documentary photographer and member of the cooperative Magnum Photos.

Leigh Raiford


Leigh Raiford is professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Laura Wexler


Laura Wexler is a professor of American Studies, Film & Media Studies and Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Yale University.