Annebella Pollen is an academic working across a range of interests in material and visual culture.
Her research areas include mass photography and popular image culture, histories of craft, design and dress, museology and public history. She has developed projects that have examined picture postcards, silhouette portraits, snapshot photographs and revivalism in dress and design.
Annebella leads the teaching and delivery of history and theory within college practice-based courses, and also works across all levels of the History of Art and Design subject area.
Dr Annebella Pollen is Principal Lecturer in the History of Art and Design and Director of Historical and Critical Studies for the College of Arts and Humanities. Her research interests and publications span a range of forms and historical periods but are united by their focus on the visual and material culture of everyday life, and the use of the past in popular culture.
Annebella holds a PhD from University of the Arts London. She has a first class BA in Visual Culture, a PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (Distinction) and an MA in Design History and Material Culture (Distinction), all from the University of Brighton where she has lectured since 2005 in the History of Art and Design.
For 2015-17 Annebella has been awarded a prestigious two-year AHRC Fellowship as Principal Investigator on the project 'Picturesqueness in Everything: The Visual and Material Culture of British Woodcraft Groups, 1916-2016'. This grew out of Annebella's 2013/14 University of Brighton sabbatical award, and develops her ongoing research into the role of art, craft, design and dress as forms of resistance, radical educational strategies and utopian ideals, focusing on progressive interwar reform organisations including the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Woodcraft Folk and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry. In 2015, Annebella's book The Kibbo Kift Kindred: Intellectual Barbarians will be published by Donlon Books; her exhibition of the same name runs from October 2015-March 2016 at Whitechapel Gallery. At the same time, Annebella is co-steering the 2015/16 Heritage Lottery Funded project, 90 Years of the Woodcraft Folk.
Research into dress and design histories cuts across many of Annebella's interests. Publications include the co-edited collection with Charlotte Nicklas, Dress History: New Directions in Theory and Practice (Bloomsbury, 2015), and research into historical revivalism and dress reform. Annebella’s longstanding research interest in the history and ethnography of mass photography has covered the subject of found photos, family albums, vernacular archives, amateur competitions and the photographic industry and is the focus of her book, Mass Photography: Collective Histories of Everyday Life (I. B. Tauris, 2015). Annebella's interest in popular practices in photography intersects with her work on popular image culture more broadly, and includes research and publications on Victorian valentines (Early Popular Visual Culture, 2014), Edwardian picture postcards (Photography and Culture, 2009) and the history of the silhouette portrait (University of Brighton, 2013).
In my University of Brighton teaching, I wear two hats. As Principal Lecturer in the History of Art and Design, I teach students in the History of Art and Design programme. As Director of Historical and Critical Studies for the Faculty of Arts, I also oversee the historical and theoretical elements of arts practice courses. These differing roles require differing teaching styles and modes of delivery, even as they share subject content. As such, they require flexible, adaptive and innovative teaching to maximise student engagement.
Case Study 1 - Object-led Learning: Learning to Look, Learning to Feel
I firmly believe in the centrality of object-led teaching, wherever possible. At Brighton we are lucky enough to have extensive handling opportunities available in the Dress and Design History Teaching Collection. Compiled over many years through the enthusiasm of Professor Lou Taylor, this collection of historic dress, textiles and accessories, alongside printed material, photographs and other artefacts, provides a rare opportunity for students to handle period objects, and to encounter, first-hand, the size and weight, scent and feel, design and construction of the material culture of the past.
By engaging all of the senses, and examining objects made and used instead of objects as symbols and ideas, students can get close to their subject of study, debunk misconceptions and test theory. Through the knowledge brought by touch, students can increase their understanding of the materiality of things: the distinctive differences between natural and synthetic fibres, the changing size of waistlines over time, the differing weights of historical photographic formats, for example, can be revelatory and may only be understood through close examination of objects in the flesh. These kinds of opportunities can help demonstrate how objects were experienced, creating greater historical understanding. The surprise and interest expressed by students that I have taught in this way has led me to reflect further on the role of touch in learning, and I have gone on to develop taught content on the topic of sensual culture and the politics of touch for final year History of Art and Design students.
Case Study 2 - Theory and Practice: Objective and Subjective?
The role of history and theory in the teaching of art and design practice at degree level can sometimes be contested. While the importance of knowing your field for locating your own work is undisputed, and the acquisition of the skills and vocabulary to analyse and critique your own discipline is invaluable, the academic rigour of study and assessment in the historical and critical studies elements of courses can sometimes be negatively perceived as distinctly separate from, or even unnecessary to, the practice of making. As part of action research into student practitioners’ perceptions of this aspect of their art and design programmes, undertaken as part of the PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, I examined what students value about Historical and Critical Studies. This research, presented at the 2013 Design Research Society conference in Oslo, published in Design and Culture journal, and the subject of the keynote lecture in Glasgow School of Art's 2015 CHEAD-funded seminar on The Role of Critical and Cultural Studies in Art School Education, has led me to reflect on the division that is sometimes constructed between theory and practice. Where, traditionally, theory might be understood as ‘objective’ and design practice as ‘subjective’, this research emphasised that a personal, subjective engagement with the object of study is as vital to the study of history and theory as it is to creative practice. Despite enduring myths to the contrary, the ‘I’ is essential to reflective learning and teaching in history and theory.
Originally inspired by student observations, this research later returned to the classroom to invigorate teaching practice. Through experimenting with new seminar content and encouraging embodied writing practices, this research has been utilised to bring separate elements of course provision into closer and more productive proximity.
Case Study 3 - Current and local: History of Art and Design on the streets
The core challenge of teaching history is how to make a necessarily distant subject of study relevant. New ways of thinking about the past are nowhere more visible in the everyday life of Brighton than in the latest trend for all things old. Brighton’s identity as a site for retro and revival fashion and design provided the inspiration for the module I designed entitled The Past in the Present. Available as an option for all second-year undergraduate students on the History of Art and Design programme, this teaching capitalises on the resources on our doorsteps to provide an accessible means of engagement with contemporary ways of understanding history. Through matching historical understanding to current practices, students can exercise their knowledge of popular culture to explore the everyday ways that the past is reinterpreted – whether as sacred memorial or cheap commodity, whether cherished as heritage or dismissed as obsolete. Through this kind of teaching, which engages with the rich material culture of the immediate locale, students bring what they already know to the classroom as a resource. Through theorising their experiences, they can learn to act as cultural critics and historians of their own time.
As an active researcher, much of my teaching is underpinned by my own first-hand studies, whether through the regular refreshment of lecture content, the design of specialist module provision or, in the case of research projects, through directly sharing research resources with students in archives and collections. This is particularly the case at Masters and PhD level, where student researchers frequently acquire both their subject knowledge and their methodological toolkits through the example of their tutors’ case studies. In these contexts, I teach research through teaching my own research. In turn, in the crucible of the classroom, information does not flow one way; my thinking is stimulated and challenged by the input and inspiration of my students.
Work includes a prestigious two-year AHRC Fellowship for 'Picturesqueness in Everything: The Visual and Material Culture of British Woodcraft Groups'.
Research and publications include the co-edited collection with Charlotte Nicklas, Dress History: New Directions in Method and Practice (2015).
Annebella's work has encompassed the subject of found photos, family albums, vernacular archives, amateur competitions and the photographic industry.
includes research and publications on Victorian valentines, Edwardian picture postcards, and the history of the silhouette portrait.
Annebella helped establish and maintain a lively discussion network of 150 international members and co-organised method and methodology workshops.
Pollen, Annebella (2015) Mass Photography: Collective Histories of Everyday Life International Library of Visual Culture . I.B. Tauris, UK. ISBN 9781784530112
Nicklas, Charlotte and Pollen, Annebella (2015) Dress history: new directions in theory and practice [Edited Collections]
Nicklas, Charlotte and Pollen, Annebella (2015) Dress History Now: Terms, Themes and Tools In: Nicklas, Charlotte and Pollen, Annebella, eds. Dress History: New Directions in Theory and Practice. Bloomsbury, UK. ISBN 9780857855411
Pollen, Annebella (2015) Radical Shoemaking and Dress Reform from Fabians to Feminists In: Nicklas, Charlotte and Pollen, Annebella, eds. Dress History: New Directions in Theory and Practice. Bloomsbury, UK. ISBN 9780857855411
Pollen, Annebella (2015) My Position in the Design World: Locating subjectivity in the design curriculum Design and Culture, 7 (1). pp. 85-105. ISSN 1754-7075
Pollen, Annebella (2014) Shared Ownership and Mutual Imaginaries: Researching Research in Mass Observation Sociological Research Online, 19 (3). ISSN 1360-7804
Pollen, Annebella (2014) Book Review: Oral History and Photography by Alexander Freund and Alistair Thomson (eds) Photography and Culture, 7 (3). pp. 337-340. ISSN 1751-4517
Pollen, Annebella and Baillie, Juliet (2014) Amateur Photographic Communities, Real and Imagined: Collective Identity in Camera Clubs and Mass-Participation Events Photoworks Annual, 21. pp. 160-167.
Pollen, Annebella (2014) Mad men, mad world: sex, politics, style and the 1960s Visual Studies, 30 (1). pp. 114-115. ISSN 1472-586X
Pollen, Annebella (2014) Fungible Photographs: Book review of Digital Snaps by Jonas Larsen and Mette Sandbye (eds) Source: The Photographic Review, 79.
Pollen, Annebella (2014) Research methodology in mass observation past and present: “scientifically, about as valuable as a chimpanzee’s tea party at the zoo? In: Hughes, J. and Goodwin, J., eds. Documentary and Archival Research. Sage Benchmarks in Social Research, 3 . Sage, UK. ISBN 9781446210949
Pollen, Annebella (2014) The Valentine has Fallen Upon Evil Days: Mocking Victorian valentines and the ambivalent laughter of the carnivalesque Early Popular Visual Culture, 12 (2). pp. 127-173. ISSN 1746-0654
Pollen, Annebella (2013) Researching the One Day for Life project: an interview with Annebella Pollen In: Tinkler, Penny, ed. Using Photographs in Social and Historical Research. Sage, London, pp. 110-114. ISBN 9780857020369
Pollen, Annebella (2013) Moving targets: photography and its metaphors Modernism/modernity, 20 (1). pp. 123-127. ISSN 1071-6068
Pollen, Annebella (2013) “Historians in Two Hundred Years' Time Are Going to Die for That!”: Historiography and Temporality in the “One Day for Life” Photography Archive History & Memory, 25 (2). pp. 66-101. ISSN 0935-560X
Pollen, Annebella (2013) The Mass Observers: A History 1937-1949 by James Hinton Cercles: Revue Pluridisciplinaire du Monde Anglophone. ISSN 1292-8968
Pollen, Annebella (2013) Ordinary and Everywhere New Formations, 79. pp. 159-161. ISSN 0950-2378
Pollen, Annebella (2013) Research Methodology in Mass Observation Past and Present: ‘Scientifically, about as valuable as a chimpanzee’s tea party at the zoo’? History Workshop Journal, 75 (1). pp. 213-235. ISSN 1363-3554
Taylor, Lou, Pollen, Annebella and Nicklas, Charlotte (2013) Silhouettes, Fashion and Image 1760-1960 [Edited Collections]
Pollen, Annebella (2013) Touch Screen: Feeling and Seeing in Photography and Textiles In: Little, M., ed. Beyond Surface and Material: Considering the Relationship between Textiles and Photography. Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, UK, pp. 41-43. ISBN 9780955082979
Pollen, Annebella (2012) Making, Selling and Wearing Boys' Clothes in Late Victorian England by Clare Rose Enterprise & Society, 13 (2). pp. 432-435. ISSN 1467-2227
Pollen, Annebella and Baillie, Juliet (2012) Reconsidering Amateur Photography [Edited Collections]
Pollen, Annebella and Baillie, Juliet (2012) Reconsidering amateur photography: an introduction National Media Museum, London, UK.
Pollen, Annebella (2012) When is a cliche not a cliche? Reconsidering mass-produced sunsets National Media Museum, London, UK.
Pollen, Annebella (2012) The Book the Nation is Waiting for! One Day for Life In: di Bello, Patrizia, Wilson, Colette and Zamir, Shamoon, eds. The Photobook from Talbot to Ruscha and Beyond. IBTauris, London. ISBN 9781848856165
Pollen, Annebella (2011) Performing spectacular girlhood: mass-produced dressing-up costumes and the commodification of imagination Textile History, 42 (2). pp. 162-180. ISSN 0040-4969
Pollen, Annebella (2011) Doing Family Photography by Gillian Rose New Formations, 71. pp. 140-141. ISSN 0950-2378
Pollen, Annebella (2011) Plus Ca Change...: Book Review of Risto Sarvas and David M. Frohlich, From Snapshots to Social Media: The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography New Formations, 74. pp. 134-137. ISSN 0950-2378
Pollen, Annebella (2009) Sweet nothings: suggestive Brighton postcard inscriptions Photography and Culture, 2 (1). pp. 77-88. ISSN 1751-4517
Pollen, Annebella (2007) Civilising sucking: the production of ceramic infant feeding devices in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries In: Crone, R., ed. New Perspectives in British Cultural History. Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, pp. 104-117. ISBN 9781847181558
Pollen, Annebella (2007) Polyfoto of unknown woman Knowing the Unknown Sitter, UK.
"Finding the paper in the journal Photography & Culture was a relief ... Frustratingly, aside from Annebella's work and Julia Gillen's Edwardian Postcard Project at Lancaster University, there has been a curious absence of academic attention given to correspondence by postcard." p. 45
"On my first reading of her paper, I only clocked the 'Researcher' half of the tag given to her by the Museum. But having met Annebella, it seems to me that just as crucial to her research were her instincts as an 'Interpreter'. Not for the analysis of the cards. This is as patient and dispassionate as you would expect a piece of academic work to be. Instead, what I mean is that her experience of collecting objects allowed her to make the most of access to the Museum's collections. She was alert to where the treasure may lie. As Walter Benjamin noted, collectors are at their core "interpreters of fate". They are people who develop skills to speculate about objects' pasts, to appreciate their worth. And Annebella certainly appreciates postcards." p. 46
Interview, Radio Reverb on the subject of Pollen's collection of photographic print envelopes as part of Keepers: Brighton and Hove Collectors, Brighton and Hove Council-funded exhibition, The Basement, Brighton 15 -17 July 2011: http://www.podcasts.com/melita_dennetts_podcast/episode/keepers_exhibition_at_the_basement_brighton
Annebella is a registered PhD supervisor and examiner, currently co-supervising two AHRC-funded students. She welcomes applications from prospective candidates with interests in popular image culture, histories of photography, the material culture of everyday life and practices of resistance in art, design and dress.
She is External Examiner for Design History in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Science, Northumbria University, 2014-15.