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Strategien einer Bildpraxis. Fotografisches Entwerfen anhand dokumentarischer Bilder von öffentlichen Plätzen

Helga Aichmaier
Research Grantee University of Art and Design Linz | Dissertation Completion Fellowship 2015/16


Recent studies in the field of image science (German term ‘Bildwissenschaften’), visual communication and history of science show that there are ‘design processes’ (German term ‘Entwerfen’)—specific decision-making processes—in the practices of designing, painting or drawing. It was assumed that parallels can be drawn between those visual practices and photography.

Little research has been conducted on the ‘photographic design process’. Besides, there were not enough contact sheets, sketches or proofs available for proper research. Thus, a method was adapted that takes both photographic explorations and theoretic considerations into account (‘Practice-led Iconic Research’): It is gaining knowledge about images through their creation (Michael Renner).

The term ‘documentary photography’ is critically questioned as a “fluid concept” (Olivier Lugon), varying in concept according to different modes of production and publication. By analysing two examples of documentary photography (Sibylle Bergemann, Jules Spinatsch) the range of documentary photography is indicated.

Archive images and the author’s own image production was pulled together: By comparing the image production of documentary photographs of four different public places (Heldenplatz Vienna, Hauptplatz Linz, Zaunplatz Glarus, Marktplatz Basel) strategies of the photographic design process are analyzed. The research questions can be answered: How do representations have to look like in order to be recognized as a certain public square? How to identify different strategies for documentary image creation? This analysis shows how strategies of the photographic design process provide an insight into a specific logic of images.


Helga Aichmaier is a PhD candidate at the University of Art and Design Linz. She graduated in 2004 at the University of applied Arts in Vienna, Austria, where she studied visual communication. After working as a graphic designer in Vienna for several years, she moved to Basel in 2008 as a research assistant at the National Centre of Competence in Research “eikones NCCR Iconic Criticism”, University of Basel. From 2009 to 2012, she was a research associate at the Visual Communication Institute of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, Academy of Art and Design as well as at eikones NCCR Iconic Criticism. Research interest: visual communication, photography, design research and its methods, research of design processes (German term: Entwurf) in the field of image science (German term: Bildwissenschaften).