2012 Highlights

Richard Morgan

8 May 2012

Richard Morgan

Richard Morgan is a second year PhD student at SSEES, UCL. His thesis, ‘Kropotkin, Scientific Thought and the Making of Modern Anarchism’, explores Kropotkin’s work as a site in which nineteenth- and early twentieth- century scientific thought and revolutionary politics intersected to produce a new brand of anarchism, representing a modern incarnation of the classical tradition.

Alongside his studies, Richard is interested in street photography, particularly representations of the urban poor. He has conducted photography of this type in St Petersburg, London, Portsmouth, Birmingham, Bastia, Ajaccio and many other cities in which he has lived or explored. One of his photographs from St Petersburg has recently been exhibited in the London Student Photography Exhibition.

Abstract: Down and Out in London and St Petersburg: Aesthetics of the Urban Poor

Poverty is intrinsic to the city. It is an everyday urban experience common to all. The poor have captivated the imagination of art and literature, filled the minds of legislators in statistical representation, and become a measurement against which the success and desirability of socio-economic and political change is constantly judged. Inescapable and faceless, human and numerical, images of poverty have been central to how humanity has understood and represented the city in its cultural processes of self-analysis.

I wish to discuss this theme, considering the aesthetics of the urban poor through my street photography from London and St Petersburg. Rather than arguing a particular case about urban poverty, my work aims to generate debate through provocation and stimulation, presenting images of destitution to its audiences. The photographs act as a repository of visual information from which we can draw out some key themes about urbanity: identity, illness, health, class, space, the aesthetics differentiating human beings, etc.

My street photography also encompasses a theoretical problematic. Should art, in its engagement with urban poverty, be an instrument for macro-social change? Or should its purpose be merely to acknowledge the humanity in each individual case of poverty?

My presentation will be accessible, inviting responses from a wide range of academic and non-academic fields. It will pose questions about the city that can be engaged with from a variety of perspectives.