Art historians and human rights investigators frequently engage with issues of intent, context and interpretation, but also violent and disturbing imagery, ‘fakes’ and propaganda. Despite their shared concern with the visual, however, there have been few attempts to consider the correspondences between the two fields.

In recent years, the human rights movement has increasingly looked to satellite imagery, user-generated content (UGC) and historical photographs as powerful evidentiary tools. Several human rights and news organisations have even created ‘visual investigation’ units focussed on the acquisition, analysis and presentation of visual information.

Visual media are the central concern of art history and media theory, which has led to the development of various methodologies and theoretical frameworks. In the last two decades, art historians have also adopted digital approaches. For example, photogrammetry and 3D modelling have been applied to record and reconstruct historical structures, while computer vision has the potential to provide new ways of looking at large visual datasets.

Similarly, forensic approaches have permitted human rights investigators to parse visual media for useful information, seeking to ‘verify’ their authenticity. Images and videos have increasingly been used as the narrative basis for advocacy, such as in interactive digital platforms. Advances in 3D technology have also allowed images to be combined with text and sound in powerful spatial presentations.

This workshop aims to promote discussion about the transdisciplinary potential of different approaches to visual media through short, 20-minute presentations. Each speaker will be invited to draw on their own work to respond to three guiding questions:

What visual media do you work with?
How is your approach to visual media different?
In what ways could your approach to visual media be useful to other disciplines?