The politics of the office: space, power, and photography

Alves de Oliveira Andreia 2014. The politics of the office: space, power, and photography. PhD thesis University of Westminster Faculty of Media, Arts and Design

TitleThe politics of the office: space, power, and photography
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsAlves de Oliveira Andreia

This practice-based research examines the relation between power, space, and photography, in relation to the office. It aims to investigate working conditions
in service-based society, by addressing its dominant form of work: office work. Based on the hypothesis that office space has an effect on how office workers are
made to work and feel, that it has not been sufficiently nor adequately addressed in documentary photography, the research proposes to employ documentary
photography to investigate the relation between power and space in the office in relation both to actual offices and to their existing representations. Its questions are: how is space a means to exercise power in the office? Can this question be
investigated through documentary photography? How, given the critique of documentary's (positivist) claims to truth?

The research developed the concepts of witnessing and intervention as methods for the practice, positing documentary practice as the deliberate process
of recording reality from a critical point of view, with the aim of making reality visible through images understood as visual arguments, thereby aspiring to
criticality. Underpinned by a Foucauldian notion of power, the research developed an empirical visual enquiry accessing nearly fifty offices located in the City and Canary Wharf, London, informed by a study of power and space within organisation theory, organisation psychology and architecture and office design.

The research produced a visual work titled The Politics of the Office comprising 128 photographs that give visibility to spatial power relations of hierarchy and control, physical and symbolic, and intervene in the structures of the photographic representation of the office space, through their visual strategy and
their presentation as installation, thereby extending the documentary representation of the office space. The research further contributes to the theory of documentary photography by developing the concepts of witnessing and intervention. The research contributes to the understanding of spatial power relations in offices by allowing witnessing images of actual offices that are largely inaccessible to the general public.


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