Open Call for Contributions: What is an image?

Between September 15-18, 2022, the International Visual Sociology Association’s community will convene online for its annual conference to explore the theme “Expanding the visual field: New developments in visual scholarship, arts and activism”. As one component of the conference, IVSA and its affiliate journal, Visual Studies, is collaborating to organize the exhibition, What is an image?.


Glitched image

Visual Studies Exhibition

Opening September 2022
Online (Kuntsmatrix/GatherTown)
Kate Korroch, Curator
Visual Studies Editorial Board
Submit on Google Forms by 1 July 2022

Submission form

In the exhibition, “image” is neither flat nor still nor a prescribed dimension but instead invites dynamic notions of that which is an image. The exhibition facilitates dialogue among practitioners and scholars at the intersection of multiple approaches and rationalities. It invites a collective, critical reflection on what being visually engaged could mean outside the economy of scholarly knowledge and practices. In creating a space where IVSA members, visual social scientists, artists, and practitioners can experiment with visuals, visuality, and visualization, we invite participants to explore how they approach the boundary between (their) scholarship and (their) art.

The exhibition opening will be organized between September 15-18, 2022, and will remain open to IVSA presenters during the conference. It will take place in an online interactive exhibition space powered by Kuntsmatrix and embedded in Gathertown. However, access to the Kuntsmatrix virtual exhibition space will remain open after the IVSA annual conference has closed. A virtual exhibition booklet will be available at the virtual entrance, with possible publication opportunities for the presenters in the following Visual Studies issue.

Through this project, Visual Studies commences a long entertained idea, curating an exhibition aligned with the annual conference theme. In recent months, the journal has increasingly expanded its approach to visuals and aesthetics while continuously reflecting on its practices and engagement. (For example, formats such as Picture/talks, Visual Essays, and curating a forthcoming, joint issue with the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, United Kingdom.) While these endeavors allow Visual Studies to better represent the diversity of visual scholarship, this evolution is less a matter of long-term strategy than the result of a fast-growing collective commitment toward inclusivity, reflexivity, and experimentation within the journal’s editorial team.

Submission guidelines:

We are eager to feature the widest variety of formats and encourage participants to take full advantage of the online format. Submissions may include but are not limited to paintings, drawings, photographs, films, filmed performances, online performances, digital creations, net art, and social media-based artwork. We encourage submissions addressing the limits and definitions of “image” and “visual” and their materialities, by emphasizing other senses and sensibilities.

All presenters should submit their proposals through Google Forms and include the following:

  • Title of contribution;
  • Name of contributor(s) as it will appear in the exhibition program;
  • Organization/Affiliation of contributor(s) – if any;
  • Email address of contributor(s);
  • Format and file type
  • Description text (250 words, maximum);
  • Additional material depending on the format of the contribution (5 minute maximum video preview, or photo sample up to 5 images, or link to online portfolio).

Submission form

All submissions, regardless of their scholarly merit and the affiliation or education of contributors, will be reviewed by an interdisciplinary Review Committee (IVSA members, visual studies scholars, artists, and practitioners) on:

  • Their experimental and artistic merit;
  • How they address questions and approaches suggested in the call for contributions;
  • How they engage with the IVSA conference theme.

Please note that, although engaging with visual studies intellectual traditions and methodologies, the Visual Studies exhibition is an art event, distinct from the IVSA conference films and photographs exhibition featured during the conference in GatherTown.

Please contact Kate Korroch at with inquiries.

Revised Materials Deadline: 25 August 2022


  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple

  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson


    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston


    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff


    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog


    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris

  • So it is my firm belief, that if you want nowadays, to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts, you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

    Vilém Flusser


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp

  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas

  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie


    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs

  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog


    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine


    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu


    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker


Katy Wareham Morris

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