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Jarkko Tanninen

Visual Arts, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

To East and West, to North and South: Regionalism and Mythology in Contemporary American Photography

Histories of American art and photography have for most part focused on the country’s peripheral metropolises, including New York and Los Angeles, ignoring the influence of other historically defined regions in the formation of American cultural imaginary. My PhD research investigates the cultural and mythological roles of such regions, including the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, and the Appalachia, identifying each as a cultural signifier in the realm of photography. The research addresses the following question: how do contemporary photographers deploy, appropriate, critique, or otherwise engage with Regionalism as a cultural, critical, and/or political tool?

Through their representations in visual and popular culture, each region has been defined by distinct visual iconographies and narratives, thus creating a tension between local realities and regional mythologies. For example, the Midwest has often been portrayed through the lens of domesticity, highlighting its status as a symbolic heartland, whilst the history of Appalachia has seen the recycling of images connoting poverty and isolation. Seeking to counter such regional, cultural and historical biases, the research project will trace how the emphasis on place and space can shape contemporary readings of American visual culture and Americanness at large, in addition to underlining photography’s inherent ability to intertwine fact and fiction.

Research Area

  • Photography History, Theory and Practice
  • Visual Arts


  • Editor, The Mind is an Open Road, 2021. A photography book exploring the American road trip during a global pandemic, including photographs by Carl Bigmore (UK) and Tommy Nease (US). 

Other Research Interests

  • The fictional America
  • History of the road trip
  • Development of popular iconographies
  • Photography and cinema
  • Art crime and authenticity

Previous Education

  • International Master's Program in Curating, including Art, Management and Law, Stockholm University, 2021
  • Master of Arts (Honours) in History of Art, University of Glasgow, 2019