The project studies the pre-digital photographic practices of Yugoslav immigrants in Vienna (1960s-1980s), in order to better understand the social life of photographs and their role as reflexive instruments for self-localization in new surroundings. Its aim is to investigate the migration-specific meanings of private photographs by analyzing image production and content, alongside their functions and modes of use. How, when, where, and why photographs were taken will all be touched upon. In which way and where were they stored, presented, and communicated? Where did they ‘travel’ and to whom were they given or gifted? Who was depicted in or absent from the photographs? What were/are the stories and feelings that accompany them? A further goal of the research is to obtain insight into an imagery, which stands in stark contrast to the normative portrayal of immigrants typical of the media and the public sphere (e.g. as permanent travellers, objectified accessories of labor processes, exoticized others, or even as a social problem) as well as to generate new historical sources and knowledge.
The project has crucial intersections with a growing field of international research on the multi-faceted and long-standing relationship between migration and photography. The former is often considered ‘the diasporic medium par excellence’. In that direction, important questions arise: How do experiences of migration articulate themselves in the medium of photography and change/effect photographic practices? How do ordinary subjects envision their sense of self, their subjectivity, and their social status in the new surroundings? How has photography been used (and continues to be used) to not only maintain transnational ties but also to build or depict community and identity across geographical locations? All these approaches enlarge the focus to a wider and multi-layered photographic production that helps to broaden our understanding and perspective on the history of migration.
The research is based primarily on Photo-Elicitation Interviewing. Two groups are of interest as potential interview partners: a. Elderly citizens, ex-Yugoslavs, who arrived in Vienna as adults during the 1960’s and 1980’s, and who took analogue pictures themselves, and b. Their family members of various ages (second or third generation) who grew up with specific intimate visual legacy, and can elucidate the role of photographs in trans-generational memory.