Dr Duncan Forbes

Brief Biography

Duncan Forbes is a curator, writer and researcher based in Los Angeles and London. He is visiting research fellow at the Institute of Modern and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster, London and has been Director and Curator of Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland and Senior Curator of Photography at the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh. Prior to assuming curatorial roles he taught art history and history of photography at the Universities of Aberdeen and St. Andrews.

Forbes’ research interests cut across three centuries of photographic media. He is particularly interested in articulations of political modernism in photography and has published widely on the interwar worker photography movement and related topics. In 2013 he curated an exhibition staged in Edinburgh and Vienna about the Austrian-exile photographer and Communist activist, Edith Tudor-Hart. This was followed in 2014 by an exhibition examining the relationship between photography and the manifesto from the 1840s to the present day. Recent research extends these interests into the 1960s and 1970s, including the explosive emergence of the Japanese protest book. In 2016 he co-curated a major exhibition on Japanese photography between 1960 and 1975 shown at venues in Vienna, Winterthur, Paris and Chicago. He is also currently writing about the relationship of the neo-avant-garde and the city in photography and film.

Forbes also has a strong interest in nineteenth-century photography, having managed and staged exhibitions drawn from a significant collection of early photography at the National Galleries of Scotland. He is currently developing curatorial projects related to articulations of race and empire in photography and, following the writings of Vilém Flusser and Friedrich Kittler, is exploring the potential of a proto-cybernetic history of the medium.

Whilst at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Forbes developed the museum’s innovative post-photography programme, including its P3: Post-Photography Prototyping Prize and influential research laboratory, SITUATIONS. He continues to be interested in the relationship between photographic media, computational technologies, archival method and issues of access and sustainability in museums and the digital humanities more generally.