Department of History

Photography as Political Practice in National Socialism

Through analysing a large body of personal photos the project aims to:

  • understand how politics and lived experience intermingled
  • tackle the problem of the “perpetrator gaze” shaping our visual imagination of National Socialism and the Holocaust today
  • develop new exhibition designs, pedagogies, and a new Massive Online Open Course to bring other ways of seeing to the fore.
Professional Photography and Amateur Snapshots Conference


Museum Curator Residencies - apply by 30 March 2018

University of Nottingham is offering two funded curatorial residencies (senior and junior level) to give two curators an opportunity to be part of a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project “Photography as Political Practice in National Socialism”.

Each residency offers 9 weeks of focused time for collaborative working with a research team to address the challenges faced in using photographs in exhibitions and public education about National Socialism and the Holocaust. The residencies will take place in three three-week blocks ideally in November/December 2018, January/February/March 2020 and November/December 2020 - exact dates are negotiable.


Applicants should be employed by a relevant museum, gallery or memorial site, with an employment contract that outlasts the research project’s end date (January 2021). Applicants should have the support of their home institution and permission to spend the required 9 week residency, spread across the three years of the project, as dedicated research time (see also Application Requirements). The award holders will be expected to spend time on the University of Nottingham campus, attend team meetings and discussions, participate in workshops and conferences, and contribute to publications and concept papers.

Applications are welcome from curatorial staff from museums, galleries and memorial sites across the UK and EU.

The senior curatorial residency offers a contribution in lieu of either full or partial salary costs to the employing institution of £21,790. It is anticipated that a senior curator would have significant and extensive curatorial experience gained in a relevant institutional setting.

The junior curatorial residency offers a contribution in lieu of either full or partial salary costs to the employing institution of £16,990. It is anticipated that a junior curator would have some recent curatorial experience in a relevant institutional setting.

Background to the research project

The project involves an interdisciplinary research team, led by Principal Investigator Professor Maiken Umbach, and will work closely with museum partners to address the challenges faced in using photographs in exhibitions and public education about National Socialism and the Holocaust. The key aims are to problematise the use of propaganda photos in exhibitions that are meant to document the experience of victims, and to find ways of drawing on private photos to make both perpetrator and victim perspectives and motivations more intelligible and relevant to contemporary audiences. To achieve this, our historical research on photographs taken by non-Jews and Jews in Germany and occupied countries under Nazi rule is integrated with pedagogic research on how such photos currently are, and could be, used by educators and in museums. The team will also work with computer scientists to develop new virtual and augmented reality interventions for museum spaces. The UK’s National Holocaust Centre and Museum are the official project partner; and the team also has links with the Imperial War Museum and with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Related research in the project explores pedagogic issues around the use of photographs in Holocaust education, and opportunities for digital interventions, such as Virtual Reality experiences, to help museums to use their collections in more effective ways.

The value of the residencies to curators

The two curatorial residencies are designed to enable professional curators to contribute to an emerging field of study and to build up EU-wide

professional networks across the museum and higher education sectors. The residencies will provide opportunities to undertake collaborative research and contribute to academic and popular publications.

On award a formal contract between the University of Nottingham and the award holders employing institution will be drawn up outlining the schedule of payments.

How to apply

Applicants should submit the following documentation by 30 March 2018 by email to

1. a letter (of no more than 2 pages A4) outlining their work in this, or related, fields, and what they and/or their home institution hope to gain from collaborating with the research project

2. a CV (of no more than 3 pages of A4) that includes a list of any publications

3. A letter of support from their employing institution (of no more than 1 page A4), signed off by the appropriate line manager or budget holder, confirming that the applicant will be given full institutional support for the residency in terms of dedicated time away from normal duties to fully participate over the 9 week duration.

Informal inquiries can be directed to the same address before that date.

To download this information as a pdf click here


Project background

Photographs crucially defined National Socialism for contemporaries as well as later generations. Yet outside some instances of formal propaganda, scholars have paid little attention to photos – with ethical consequences that continue to affect the ways we remember Nazism and its victims today.

Millions of photos were taken in this period by hobbyist and casual photographers; an estimated 10% of Germans owned a camera in 1939, many more participated in the practice. These photos are records both of people's engagement with the dictatorship, and of their efforts to distance and separate themselves from it. They are evidence of the interaction between ideology and subjectivity, of politics and lived experience: materially, because many albums mixed personal photos and ideological artefacts, eg, newspaper cuttings, and metaphorically, because many people positioned themselves in and through photos, as participants in public life under Nazism, at political events and rallies, in organised leisure programmes, child evacuations, volunteer and compulsory labour services, or in the war. Some photos also offer insights into alternate private worlds that individuals sought to construct as a refuge or a place of separation from politics. In the case of Jewish Germans, photos show different emotional dispositions, contracting social spaces, narratives of emigration and escape, or experiences of persecution, in ways that challenge the official photographic record.

Advisory board

  • Michael Wildt (Professor for Modern German History at Humboldt University Berlin)
  • Daniel Wildmann (Director of Leo Baeck Institute London and Senior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary University of London)
  • Tim Cole (Professor of Social History and Director of Brigstow Institute at the University of Bristol)
  • Alan Marcus (Associate Professor at Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut)
  • William Niven (Professor in Contemporary German History at Nottingham Trent University)
  • Judy Cohen (Photo Archivist and Chief Acquisitions Curator at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Project team

This is an interdisciplinary project bringing together experts in their respective fields.

Maiken Umbach

Elizabeth Harvey

Experts on the relationship between subjectivity and ideology among the different groups living under the NS regime

Gary Mills

Specialist in Holocaust education in schools

Steve Benford

Specialist in supporting museums to use digital technologies to engage visitors with difficult ethical issues

James Griffiths

Project consultant, Director of Learning, The National Holocaust Centre and Museum

Sylvia Necker

Postdoctoral researcher, involved in innovative exhibition designs for National Socialism and Jewish histories



Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact details