Erica Payet

PhD student

Thesis: Photography in the First Persian Gulf War (1990-91)

Supervised by Prof. Julian Stallabrass

Funded by a CHASE studentship

Much of the writing about the First Gulf War (1990-91) assumes that few photographs exist of this conflict because most photographers were denied access to the battlefield. My research, drawing on a variety of sources from under-exploited archives to new interviews, will question this orthodoxy to advance a fresh analysis of an important turning point in the history of photojournalism. Up to the declared cease-fire on 28 February 1991, photojournalists had to work with and against military-organised media control, but important photographs of the conflict and its direct aftermath were taken nonetheless, some in more independent circumstances than is generally remembered. Although press coverage of the war at the time was largely corroborating the governmental legitimisation of the war, and editors published only a limited selection of pictures, many photographers were working on the ground. Key developments took place for the profession, including the introduction of digital technologies, the increased competition from 24-hour live television, and the evolution of the media’s relationship with the military in time of war. This will be the first in-depth study focusing on the work and output of photojournalists during the First Persian Gulf War. It will propose a more nuanced understanding of this conflict’s photographic coverage and of the profession’s evolution from the end of the Cold War to today.


2017-Present: Courtauld Institute of Art, London
PhD Candidate, History of Art

2011-12: King’s College, London
MA Cultural and Creative Industries

2008-11: Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris
MA British, North-American and Postcolonial Studies

2008-11: Ecole du Louvre, Paris
BA History of Art, with specialisation in History of Photography

2005-08: Lycée Lakanal, Sceaux, France
Classes Préparatoires A/L Ulm (Humanities studies) with specialisation in languages (English, Italian, Ancient Greek)

Research Interests

  • History of Photography
  • Culture and Conflict
  • Arts and the Middle-East
  • Postcolonial studies
  • Contemporary art

Current Projects

Professional Experience


“Animal Bodies, Oil, and the Apocalyptic in the First Gulf War Aftermath” in Photography & Culture. DOI: 10.1080/17514517.2021.1889121