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Professor Steve Edwards

Profile summary

  • Visiting Professor in Art - History - Materialism
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Art His, Class St, Eng&CW, Mus
  • Art History

Professional biography

BA Hons, Fine Art (South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education), MA Social History of Art (Leeds), PhD (Leeds)

Steve Edwards joined the Open University as Research Lecturer in Art History in 1997. From September 2016 he is Professor in the History and Theory of Photography at Birkbeck.

After a first degree in Fine Art, he was awarded an MA in the social history of art from the University of Leeds. In 1996 he received his PhD for a thesis on nineteenth-century theories of photography. During 2006 Professor Edwards was visiting professor in art History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In addition to writing extensively on the history of photography, he regularly produces essays on contemporary art and on art and social theory. His work has been translated into eleven languages.

Research interests

History and theory of photography; Marxist and socialist thought; Contemporary art; Art, work and industrial knowledge; Film and video, Art theory; Cultural theory; Historiography; Utopia; ‘Globalisation’.

In 2006 he published two books: The Making of English Photography, Allegories (Penn State University Press) and Photography: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press). His most recent book is Martha Rosler, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (2012). He serves on the editorial boards of The Oxford Art Journal and Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory.

Professor Edwards regularly organises conferences and is a convenor for the research seminar ‘Marxism in Culture’, held at the Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Studies, University of London.

He is currently working on research projects on image copyright and piracy; contemporary art and contemporary capitalism; and photography, socialism and feminism at the turn of the twentieth century.


Martha Rosler, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems. London: Afterall, 2012.

The Making of English Photography, Allegories. Pennsylvania, USA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006.

Photography: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Teaching interests

Professor Edwards is the editor of three Open University textbooks:

  • Art and its Histories: a Reader (Yale University Press, 1996) 
  • with Paul Wood Art of the Avant-Gardes (Yale University Press, 2004)
  •  Art & Visual Culture 1850–2010: Modernity to Globalisation, Steve Edwards & Paul Wood eds (Tate Publishing, 2012)


Beard Patentee: Daguerrotype Property and Authorship (2013-12)
Edwards, Stephen
Oxford Art Journal, 36(3) (pp. 369-394)
'Socialism and the Sea: Allan Sekula 1951-2013' (2013-11)
Edwards, Steve
Radical Philosophy(182) (pp. 61-65)
‘What keeps mankind alive?’: the Eleventh International Istanbul Biennial. Once More on Aesthetics and Politics (2010)
Day, Gail; Edwards, Steve and Mabb, David
Historical Materialism, 18(4) (pp. 135-171)
Apocalyptic Sublime: On the Brighton Photo-Biennial (2009)
Edwards, Steve
Historical Materialism, 17(2) (pp. 84-102)
Commons and crowds: figuring photography from above and below (2009)
Edwards, Stephen
Third Text, 23(4) (pp. 447-464)
‘Poor Ass!’ (A Donkey in Blackpool, 1999) (2007-03)
Edwards, Steve
Oxford Art Journal, 30(1) (pp. 39-54)
Jeff Wall: introduction (2007-01)
Edwards, Stephen
Oxford Art Journal, 30(1) (pp. 1-15)
Produkcija objektivnosti v fotografiji zgodnjega 19. stoletja (2006)
Edwards, Steve
Borec: Revija Za Zgodivino, literaturo in antropologijo(LVIII) (pp. 163-181)
The Dialectics of Skill in Talbot's Dream World (2002)
Edwards, S.
History of Photography, 26(2) (pp. 113-118)
Factory and fantasy in Andrew Ure (2001)
Edwards, Steve
Journal of Design History, 14(1) (pp. 17-33)
Martha Rosler, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (2012-06)
Edwards, Stephen
ISBN : 978-1-84638-083-9 | Publisher : Afterall (Forthcoming) | Published : London
The Making of English Photography, Allegories (2006-10)
Edwards, Steve
ISBN : 271027134 | Publisher : Pennsylvania State University Press | Published : Pennsylvania, USA
Photography: A Very Short Introduction (2006-08)
Edwards, Stephen
Very Short Introductions
ISBN : 0 19 280164 3 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK
Allan Sekula’s Chronotopes: Uneven and Combined Capitalism (2015-02-28)
Edwards, Steve
In: Van Gelde, Hilde ed. Allan Sekula. Ship of Fools / The Dockers Museum (pp. 31-43)
ISBN : 9789462700055 | Publisher : Leuven University Press
Décor and Decorum in the 'Temple of Photography' (2014-11-21)
Edwards, Steve
In: Arnold, Dana ed. Interdisciplinary Encounters: Hidden and Visible Explorations of the Work of Adrian Rifkin (pp. 73-105)
ISBN : 9781780767024 | Publisher : IB Tauris
An 'Ever Recurring Controversy': John Thompson, W.J. Stillman and the Boot Blacks (2013-11)
Edwards, Stephen
In: Carter, Warren; Haran, Barnaby and Schwartz, Frederic J. eds. ReNew Marxist Art History
ISBN : 978-1-908-970-11-4 | Publisher : Art/Books | Published : London
Una 'polemic recurrent': John Thompson, William James Stillman i els enllustradors de sabates (2012)
Edwards, Stephen
In: Ribalta, Jorge ed. Per Què La Fotografia Es Avui Més Important Com A Document Que Mai (pp. 71-103)
ISBN : 978-84-940668-0-1 | Publisher : The Private Space Books | Published : Barcelona
Allegorical photography (2007-08-24)
Edwards, Steve
In: Hannavay, John ed. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (pp. 27-29)
ISBN : 9780415972352 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London
National survey: Great Britain (2007-08-24)
Edwards, Steve
In: Hannavay, John ed. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (pp. 606-614)
ISBN : 9780415972352 | Publisher : Routledge
Robert Hunt (2007-08-24)
Edwards, Steve
In: Hannavay, John ed. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (pp. 731-732)
ISBN : 9780415972352 | Publisher : Routledge
William Lake Price and James Mudd: the shattered utopia (2007-01-01)
Edwards, Steve; Fusco, Maria and O, Steve
In: Gergley, Chris ed. Copy Work (pp. 9-21)
ISBN : 9781897302163 | Publisher : Contemporary Art Gallery | Published : Vancouver
Societies, groups, institutions, and exhibitions in the United Kingdom (2007)
Edwards, Steve
In: Hannavay, John ed. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (pp. 1303-1307)
ISBN : 9780415972352 | Publisher : Routledge
Un 'paia en el mundo del arte': Richter marcha artas (2007)
Edwards, Steve
In: Green, David ed. ¿Que ha sisdo de la fotografia? (pp. 30-48)
ISBN : 978-84-252-2132-3 | Publisher : Gustavo Gili | Published : Barcelona
Instantaneos de historia Passagens sobre o argumento pos-moderno (2006)
Edwards, Steve
In: Nicolau, Ricardo ed. Fotografia Na Arte: De Ferramenta A Paradigma. Colecção de Arte Contemporânea Público Serralves (6) (pp. 142-151)
ISBN : 989-619-040-2 | Publisher : Fundação de Serralves | Published : Porto
Location, location, location: the place of provenance (2005)
Edwards, Steve
In: Sheffield Hallam University, and Showroom Cinema, eds. Transmission: Speaking and Listening (pp. 85-91)
ISBN : 9781899926664 | Publisher : Site Gallery | Published : Sheffield
The colonisation of Utopia (2004)
Edwards, Steve
In: Mabb, David ed. William Morris (pp. 12-40)
ISBN : 903261537 | Publisher : Whitworth Art Gallery | Published : Manchester
A 'pariah in the world of art': Richter in Reverse Gear (2003)
Edwards, Stephen
In: Green, D.; Lowry, J. and Campany, D. eds. Where is the Photograph? (pp. 31-46)
ISBN : 1-903796-08-3 | Publisher : Photoforum | Published : Brighton, UK
An interview with Martha Rosler (2003)
Edwards, Steve
In: Campany, David ed. Art and Photography (p 250)
ISBN : 714842869 | Publisher : Phaidon | Published : London
Snapshooters of history: passages on the postmodern argument (2002-11-13)
Edwards, Steve
In: Wells, Liz ed. The Photography Reader (pp. 180-195)
ISBN : 415246601 | Publisher : Routledge
The accumulation of knowledge or, William Whewell's eye (2001)
Edwards, Stephen
In: Purbrick, Louise ed. The Great Exhibition of 1851: New Interdisciplinary Essays (pp. 26-52)
ISBN : 0-7190-5591-1 | Publisher : Manchester University Press | Published : Manchester
Art & language's doubt (1999)
Edwards, Steve
In: Harrison, Charles ed. Art & Language in Practice, (pp. 101-107)
ISBN : 8488786441 | Publisher : Fundacio Antonio Tapie | Published : Barcelona
Special Issue of Oxford Art Journal: Jeff Wall (2007-03-01)
Edwards, Stephen
Oxford University Press, UK.