School of Arts



Through Amateur Eyes A Culture of Light On Not Looking The Image and the Witness

I completed my PhD in Cinema Studies at NYU in 2000, following an MA in Art History at University of Melbourne, and a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature at University of Adelaide in Australia. 

My work is motivated by a series of questions that investigate the relationship between modernist images and the historical world in which they are conceived, produced, exhibited and received. I am interested in questions such as: How and where does modernist or abstract art represent the world? How do people engage with these art forms and how can we describe this aesthetic experience? How do the modernist works of art negotiate their social reality? Particularly, as that social reality is defined by transformation, war, or traumatic historical events. What is the value of modernist art both for academics and ordinary people today? My ongoing project is to address these questions through analyzing what and how modernist art makes meaning (formally, aesthetically, materially), as well as what it does in the world.

The highlight of 2017 for me has been my involvement in LIDER, a collaborative project with University of Siena, Italy, and Open University, UK, and a number of other NGOs, non-profit organizations, and small enterprises. The project looks at the role of art in the healing and reintegration of a selection of European communities in the wake of industrial disasters, and their ongoing challenge to live with the resultant environmental risk.

The Truth is Always GreyIn 2018, I will continue my work on the infrastructural, geographical, social transformation of the Ruhr Valley, Germany in the wake of the closing of the coal mines and steel industry through a series of collaborative activities with the University Alliance Ruhr. This work is the culmination of many issues that have concerned my work over the past fifteen years: it is a focussed examination of the way that avant-garde and modernist art projects have been integrated into re-articulating the identity of a region. Above all, it explores how art (particularly public sculpture) is used to create new identities for a community that has been isolated and excluded within a post-industrial cultural landscape. This work developed out of a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship when I was at Ruhr University, Bochum from 2008-2010 to research and write Through Amateur Eyes. Film and Photography in Nazi Germany.

My most recent book, The Truth is Always Grey: A History of Modernist Painting was funded by a Leverhulme Fellowship (2013-2014). The book argues that twentieth-century modernist grey painting dynamically interacts with the industrial world in which it is produced. Simultaneously, I demonstrate that it has a critical place in the continued development of painting as a medium throughout European and American postwar modernity. As such, I argue that grey is a dynamic and complex colour in the world and on the canvas.
Beyond my academic writing, I am involved with the art world in various capacities. I write regularly on my blog, am European co-ordinator for the online platform, for which I also take part in running a residency program for emerging artists in Paris. I take tours of exhibitions, curate, and work with young and emerging artists towards having their work exhibited. I am also a classically trained pianist.

To keep up with these and my other activities, visit my website:, follow me on twitter: @frances_guerin, and buy my books.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Guerin, F. (2018). The Truth is Always Grey: A History of Modernist Painting. [Online]. Minneapolis, United States: University of Minnesota Press. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2011). Through Amateur Eyes: Film and Photography in Nazi Germany. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Guerin, F. (2005). A Culture of light: cinema and technology in 1920s Germany. [Online]. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Available at:
Edited book
Guerin, F. ed. (2015). On Not Looking:The Paradox of Contemporary Visual Culture. [Online]. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd. Available at:
Hallas, R. and Guerin, F. eds. (2007). The Image and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture. Wallflower Press.
Book section
Guerin, F. (2018). Behind the Mask. in: Suto, F. ed. Midnight Masquerade: A Masquerade Anthology. Fantasia Divinity, pp. 6-25.
Guerin, F. (2016). The Revellation and Resistance of Amateur Images at War: Thessaloniki in the Byron Metos collection. in: Museum of Byzantine Culture, T. ed. Representations of the Nazi Occupation: Photography, History, Memory. Thessaloniki, Greece: Museum of Byzantine Culture, pp. 62-80.
Guerin, F. (2015). Searching in Grey: Cy Twombly's Untitled Paintings. in: Wedekind, G. ed. Die Farbe Grau. Unknown.
Guerin, F. (2015). While Not Looking: The Failure to See and to Know in Dr Mabuse der Spieler, and The Testament of Dr Mabuse. in: McElhaney, J. ed. A Companion to Fritz Lang (Wiley Blackwell Companions to Film Directors). New York: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 43-62. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2015). Peripatetic Sculpture: The Exhaustion of Looking in the Presence of Richard Serra's Promenade. in: Guerin, F. ed. On Not Looking: The Paradox of Contemporary Visual Culture. New York: Routledge, pp. 103-122. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2014). The Corporealization of Memory in Christian Boltanski's Installations. in: Memoryscapes. Zurich: Diaphanes, pp. 157-177. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2013). Memory through the Perpetrator's Lens: Witnessing via Images Taken by Wehrmacht Soldiers and Officers on the Eastern Front. in: Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form: Sighting Memory. New York: Routledge, pp. 163-179.
Guerin, F. (2012). A Generation Later and Still Unrepresentable? Fassbinder and the Red Army Fraction. in: A Companion to Rainer Werner Fassbinder. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 441-460.
Guerin, F. (2012). Dislocations: videograms of a revolution and the search for images. in: Ginsberg, T. and Mensch, A. eds. A Companion to German Cinema. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 483-506.
Guerin, F. (2011). The Placement of Shadows: What's inside William Kentridge's Black Box/Chambre Noire? in: Rhodes, J. D. and Gorfinkel, E. eds. Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 233-254.
Guerin, F. (2011). Locating Shadows: What's inside William Kentridge's Black Box? in: John David, R. ed. Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 233-253. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2009). Photographs that Forget: Contemporary Recyclings of the Hitler-Hoffmann Rednerposen. in: Plate, L. and Smelik, A. eds. Technologies of Memory in the Arts. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 150-165.
Guerin, F. (2008). Radical Aspirations Historicized: The European Commitment to Political Documentary. in: Kolker, R. ed. The Oxford Handbook of Film and Media Studies. New York: Oxford university Press, pp. 114-151. Available at:
Guerin, F. and Hallas, R. (2007). Introduction to The Image and the Witness. in: The Image and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture. London: Wallflower Press.
Guerin, F. (2007). The Gray Space Between: Gerhard Richter's 18. Oktober 1977 (1989). in: Guerin, F. and Hallas, R. eds. The Image and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture. London: Wallflower Press, pp. 111-126. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2004). Explorations of Light and Lighting in Und das Licht Erlosch (1914). in: Gaudreault, A. ed. The Cinema: A New Technology for the 20th Century. Lausanne: Payot, pp. 219-228. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2004). When Beginnings and Endings Distort the Past. in: Limina/le Soglie del Film. Udine: Lithostampa, Pasian di Prato, pp. 247-254.
Guerin, F. (2018). Invisibility Adores and Abhors a Photograph: Jane and Louise Wilson's Moving Image Installations. Journal of Visual Art Practice [Online] 17:188-205. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2017). Physically absent, visually present: Joachim Schumacher's photographs of Germany's Ruhr Valley. Journal of European Studies [Online] 47:1-19. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2017). The Ambiguity of Amateur Photography in Modern Warfare. New Literary History [Online] 48:53-74. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2017). Introduction: European Photography Today. Journal of European Studies [Online] 47:1-11. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2012). Obfuscations of the Visible: Creating Memory through not looking at Christian Boltanski's Archives. Cinema e Cie: International Film Studies Journal [Online]:279-284. Available at:
Guerin, F. and Eisenberg, D. (2012). Archives and Images as Repositories of Time, Language, and Forms from the Past: A Conversation with Daniel Eisenberg. The Moving Image [Online] 12:112-118. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2010). Film as an Archive for Photography: The Portraitist as Witness to the Holocaust. Screening the Past [Online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2008). Infinite Rotations in a Finite Frame: A Tacita Dean Tryptich. Cinéma e Cie: International Film Studies Journal N/A:119-134.
Guerin, F. (2006). The Perpetrator in Focus: Turn of the Century Holocaust Remembrance in "The Specialist". Law Text Culture [Online] 10:167-193. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2004). The energy of disappearing: problems of recycling Nazi amateur film footage. Screening the Past [Online]:0-0. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2003). Opposite or Complementary Conceptions? What do Rudolf Arnheim and Michel Chion have in Common? Cinema e Cie: International Film Studies Journal [Online] 32:129-140. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2003). Dazzled by the Light. Cinema Journal [Online] 42:98-115. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2002). Reframing the Photographer and his Photographs: Photographer (1995). Film and History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies [Online] 32:43-54. Available at:
Internet publication
Guerin, F. (2018). Changing how we look at and think about the color grey [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2018). From Colgate University to the Central African Republic [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2018). Time to Leave [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2014). FX Reflects (Blog) [Blog]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2014). Lotte Reiniger: in Women Film Pioneers Project [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2013). En Grisaille nowadays [Catalogue and exhibition blurb]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2012). Frances Guerin on her book Through Amateur Eyes: Film and Photography in Nazi Germany: An Interview [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2008). [website]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2008). [online]. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2011). Vanessa Corby, Eva Hesse: Longing, Belonging and Displacement. Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History [Online] 17:137-139. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2009). Kristen Whissel, Picturing American Modernity: Traffic, Technology, and the Silent Cinema,. Screening the Past [Online] n/a:n/a-n/a. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2006). McCormick and Guenther-Pal, eds, German Essays on Film (2004). Film-Philosophy [Online] 10:95-100. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2003). Weltwunder der Kinematographie. Film History auf DVD, Polzer Media Group, Potsdam, 2002. The Moving Image: Association of Moving Image Archivists [Online] 4:123-126. Available at:
Edited journal
Guerin, F. ed. (2017). European Photography Today. Journal of European Studies [Online] 47:331-469. Available at:
Guerin, F. (2016). Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. in: Gabbard, K. ed. Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies. Oxford University Press.
Showing 50 of 51 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]


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I believe very strongly that cinema is a discrete medium that can, nevertheless, only be understood within its cultural/historical context. Thus, my teaching approach to cinema begins with its sensuous properties, and always extends to interdisciplinary interpretation. Above all, my teaching is motivated by the imperative to expand students’ intellectual worlds, so I they are always introduced to a corpus of films with which are usually previously unfamiliar. The films are taken from my area of interest--and even when I teach American film, the material will be approached from new perspectives. In addition, I encourage students to draw on their knowledge and curiosity for literature, music, and other visual arts in an attempt to discover the complexity of the moving image.
I also present students with a variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the topic under discussion. This introduces students to a range of different ways of seeing and thinking that aims to take them to whole new levels of knowledge. The diversity of my teaching experience reflects a commitment to various approaches to the history and theory of images.

Teaching Interests

Visual culture; Image Studies; Holocaust Studies; Witnessing and Trauma Studies; Memory Studies;19th and 20th Century Realism; Critical Theory; Documentary Film; War and Cinema; Silent cinema, Modernity and visual culture; Cinema and the Other Arts; Marxism and Visual Culture; Images of War and Violence; Avant-garde and experimental cinema;

Undergraduate courses

Writing for Film; History of German Cinema; Study of a Single Film; Major Directors: Lang, Von Sternberg, Ophüls; Cinema in 1920s Berlin, Paris, Moscow; Feminism in Film; Film History/Film Theory; History of British Cinema; History of Russian and Soviet Cinema; Avant-Garde and Experimental Cinema; European Realism; Introduction to World Cinemas; Language of Cinema; National Cinema; War and Cinema; Writing Workshop I; Writing Workshop II

Graduate courses

Screening Histories: Post-war European Realism; Screening Histories: The Holocaust and Cinema; Silent Cinema and Modernity; Working with Film

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I am currently working on Post-Industrial Views, a book that analyses the ongoing role of art in the transformation of the Ruhr Valley in Germany. Specifically, I focus on artworks that use the material of industry (steel, water, concrete, light, the body) to re-articulate a post-industrial identity for the region, its landscape, and its people. Within the larger project, I am working on another monograph, Steel: the Material of Art and Industry. This analyzes the evolving relationship between steel and visual representation from the turn of the twentieth century to the turn of the twenty-first. Within this “century of steel” I focus on four pressure points: the love affair of cinema/photography and steel production at the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth centuries; the role and representation of steel within the destruction of two world wars; the ambivalence of steel in minimalist sculpture in postwar America; the post-modernist return to a sculptural use of steel that searches for the humanism of steel.

In another manuscript-in-process, Cinematic Portrait Painting: (Not) about Gerhard Richter, my long fascination with the painting of Gerhard Richter and my intellectual commitment to cinema come together. Here, I explore qualities of Richter’s portraits--in the broadest sense of the genre--movement, ephemerality, immateriality, temporal unfolding, all of which are more commonly associated with cinema. Through these qualities, I demonstrate the portraits’ infinite performance of simultaneous re-definition and eschewal of traditional notions of portraiture, the identity of the artist, subjects depicted, viewers, and spaces of exhibition.

I have also written a novel, At Sea: A Creative History. This is an account of a young woman’s journey from Australia to Europe on a Norwegian cargo liner, a story interwoven with a fictional account of one of the first free settlers to South Australia, 150 years prior to the young woman’s journey back to Europe. My second novel, Double Lives is a fictional account of Michelangelo and Raphael’s relationship when they were both working in the Vatican. My novels extend my interests in questions of identity, exile, memory, migration, and the role of art in everyday life into the creative form.

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I welcome dissertations with a focus on modernist and post-modernist (both loosely defined) art and visual cultures. I am happy to supervise dissertations housed within more traditional disciplinary fields of film studies and art history. I also welcome dissertations that take a visual studies' approach to still and/or moving images. Within these fields, I will supervise on:

• 20th century art and visual culture
• historical avant-garde;
• new and experimental art forms and aesthetics;
• amateur and small gauge forms and aesthetics;
• the role of images in trauma, witnessing, memory;
• the image as agent in the formation of cultural identity;
• questions of vision, visuality and perception;
• space, landscape, urban studies;
• images of war and violence;
• representations of migration, exile, and political oppression.

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Fellowships and Awards

May 2016: Academic Research Fellowship. DAAD, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany;
Jan 2016: Millard Miess Award for publication of The Truth is Always Grey: Painting from Grisaille to Gerhard Richter;

2013-2014: Leverhulme Fellowship, Leverhulme Trust, UK

2008-2010: Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship, European Commission,
FP7. Affiliated at Institut für Medienwissenschaft, Ruhr University, Bochum

June 2009: Fellow, Flaherty Seminar, Colgate University, New York,

July 2006: British Academy, UK Conference Travel Award,

2003-2004: Leverhulme Fellowship, Leverhulme Trust, UK,

2002: British Academy, UK, Research Grant,

2001-2002: Colyer Ferguson Award, University of Kent, UK,

2001: Arts & Humanities Research Board, UK, Grant in the Creative and Performing Arts;

April 2001: Society for Cinema Studies 18th Annual Dissertation Award,
Outstanding Dissertation Award, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, New York University

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Last Updated: 29/01/2018