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GraDiM: Granularities of Dispersion and Materiality – Visualising a Photo Archive on Diaspora

In collaboration with photographer Frédéric Brenner and his international project team, the GraDiM research project is developing theoretical and technical concepts for the visualisation of a photo archive with particular sensitivity for a collection documenting the Jewish diaspora.

Bildauswahl aus dem Archiv des Fotografen Frédéric Brenner
Bildauswahl aus dem Archiv des Fotografen Frédéric Brenner © Frédéric Brenner
Research project
Digital Transformation – Urban Futures
Forming Society
Cooperation partners:

Frédéric Brenner and team

DFG Priority Programme "The Digital Image" (funding code 510079995)

In his photographic journey spanning over four decades and more than 40 countries, Frédéric Brenner has explored the many expressions of Jewish life in the Diaspora. His archive is a comprehensive visual documentation of the Jewish people from the late 20th to the 21st century. It not only recounts Jewish life, but addresses contemporary debates and challenges from individual and collective identities. The archive, which alternates between documentary and artistic works, comprises over 100,000 black and white and colour negatives as well as digital photographs, 8,000 contact sheets, colour slides, art prints, interviews and diaries.

The GraDiM project draws on recent research in digital humanities, data visualisation and human-computer interaction. Although great efforts have been made in recent years in the field of digitalisation and online publication of cultural collections, forms of presentation still rely on grids of thumbnails of the same format, which fail to realise the diverse potential of digital access. Our research aims to visualise the dimensions of processuality, selection and materiality left as traces in the archive. We aim to design, develop and evaluate visualisation and interaction techniques that enable navigation between different levels of granularity in terms of semantics, socio-cultural relationality, photographic processes and visual elements. Our central concern is not the reduction of data in favour of uniformity or clarity, but to make its complexity a visual guiding idea by exploring and using new technological developments such as artificial intelligence for image recognition and data enhancement.

The project focuses on two main research areas: a) the representation of diaspora as dispersion, b) the visualisation of photographic materiality and selection processes. These two thematic strands are complemented by c) methods for visualising and connecting the different levels of granularity, exploring the possibilities of interactive movement between visual, structural, relational and contextual granularities.

Project team

Project management

Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk

Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk

Research professor for Information Visualization & Management
Co-director of Urban Complexity Lab (UCLAB)

Project team

Mark-Jan Bludau, M.A.

Mark-Jan Bludau, M. A.

Academic assistant at UCLAB in the research project "GraDiM: Granularitäten von Zerstreuung und Materialität – Visualisierung eines Fotoarchivs über Diaspora"

Project team

Viktoria Brüggemann

Viktoria Brüggemann

Academic assistant at UCLAB in the project "GraDiM: Granularitäten von Zerstreuung und Materialität – Visualisierung eines Fotoarchivs über Diaspora"

Other persons

  • Sarah Kreiseler (scientific advisor)
  • Jona Pomerance (student researcher)