Anthropology and Photography 2014 (1)

British Museum, Clore Centre, 29-31 May 2014

(P34)

Archives, Representation and Portraits

Location BP Lecture Theatre
Date and Start Time 31 May, 2014 at 09:00

Convenor

Elizabeth Edwards (De Montfort University)  email
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Short Abstract

This panel explores diverse photographic representation in post-cards, portraits and calendars in historical perspective, showing how each encounter may be regard as being the outcome of distinct political and social interactions.

Long Abstract

Our understanding of the way that diverse photographic media may be used in nation-building projects, or in the colonial endeavour, is increasingly sophisticated. However, at the same time each representation is the outcome of a specific series of localised interactions that are always unique and always distinctive. This panel aims to explore these specific historical interactions in diverse geographical contexts, and show how in each case they gave rise to a pattern that we can only discern through detailed case studies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

'Latvian Types': Hybridized Visions of Rural Life in Latvia in 1890s

Author: Baiba Tetere (University of Greifswald) email

Short Abstract

The collection by Jānis Krēsliņš (1865 - ?) provides a chance to look at the development of the local patterns of the field of visual anthropology in the Baltic province of the Russian Empire in the 1890s.

Long Abstract

This paper on the representation of Latvian farmers in photography will examine relations between nation building, science, and modernity in the colonial society which inhabited the Baltic region of the Russian Empire in the late nineteenth century. The analysis focuses on the development of the local patterns of the field of visual anthropology which were profoundly shaped by the multicultural context and brought a very unique set of influences to the practice of photography.

In particular, this paper looks at the case study of the Latvian Ethnographic Exhibition taking place during the 10th Congress of Archaeology of the Russian Empire from August 1 to September 15, 1896. As the organizer of this exhibition, the Rīgas Latviešu Biedrība (Riga Latvian Association) commissioned Jānis Krēsliņš (1865 - ?) to take photographs of Latvian types for the 3rd Section of the Exhibition Anthropology and Statistics. The collection of more than two-hundred photographs provides a chance to look at the transmission and reception of scientific knowledge in the Baltic Provinces, how certain ideas originating in the centres of scientific culture became locally absorbed and appropriated by Latvian national movement. Moreover, the new technology offered Latvians an unprecedented opportunity for self-representation.

The key question concerns how the Latvian national movement adopted and absorbed scientific ideas in relation to its photographic practice? How these quasi-scientific representations of Latvian farmers were used to perform Latvian identity and shape its visual culture?

From subject to object and back again: Pacific people in Kerry & Co.'s historical postcards (1893-1917)

Author: Nicole Peduzzi Longhitano (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Volkskunde) email

Short Abstract

This paper will focus on how the analyses of postcard series can unveil narratives capable of returning identity to the indigenous people represented in the images, identities that were taken from them during the manipulative moments of the heavy studio fabrications and of the caption’s ascription.

Long Abstract

This paper will focus on how the analyses of an apparently fragmented postcard series, produced in Sydney by Kerry & Co., can unveil narratives capable of returning identity to the indigenous people represented in the images, identities that were taken from them during the manipulative moments of the heavy studio fabrications and of the caption's ascription.

Taken alone, postcards are frequently understood as "raw objects" (Edwards) that seem impenetrable and superficial. However, when considered as a group of artefacts and in their dialectical relation to other presentational forms, postcards are revealed to be a rich resource and a valid starting point for the analysis of anthropological aspects usually neglected.

The relationship between content and form, which is often strained, should make us think of the way postcards and visual materials are perceived today in photographic archives. While indigenous people frequently approach visual material representing their ancestors with an obvious preference for the subject matter presented rather than the actual format, such as on a postcard, archiving practices still tend to differentiate between the various paper supports, as for their cataloguing and ideal preservation the focus is on their materiality. Within this material-related system there is a hierarchy that often considers photographs as "originals" and postcards as "reproductions", thereby affording photographs better archiving conditions than postcards. These different perceptions, which in turn lead to inconsistencies in the administration of, and access to, historical postcards of indigenous people, are a consequence of the multiple functions postcard can assume.

Jan Bułhak's photographic images of Vilnius in the context of interwar Vilnius heritage protection

Author: Viktorija Kurienė (Vilnius University) email

Short Abstract

In this paper we are seeking to reveal what Jan Bułhak’s images of Vilnius tell us about interwar period monuments protection (its goals, values and means), how the goals, values of these to areas (photography and heritage protection) correlate in interwar Vilnius.

Long Abstract

Since 1913 till the end of Second World War Vilnius practically had one dominating photographer - Jan Bułhak (1876-1950). During the whole period and often in nowadays his photography was the only image which represents the city. The photographer who represents Vilnius images during the whole period had two main artistic directions/values. These are pictorial photography and national (Polish) photography. During interwar period Jan Bułhak not only created Vilnius images, taught photography in local university, but also actively took part in heritage protection activity. He was the main making inventory of Vilnius monuments and their preservation works for the archive of Vilnius conservator; he often was a member of various monuments protection boards. In this paper we are seeking to reveal what Jan Bułhak's images of Vilnius tell us about interwar period monuments protection (its goals, values and means), how the goals, values of these to areas (photography and heritage protection) correlate in interwar Vilnius.

Trough the Eyes of the Other! New Ways of Mission Communication in the Eighties

Author: Huibrecht (Huub) Lems (Mission Foundation Protestant Church in the Netherlands) email

Short Abstract

Around 1980 a new way of mission communication with church members started. From focus on the work done by the mission to focus on art expressions by Christians from partner churches in Asia, Africa and Latin-America. The case is illustrated by the mission history of Bali, Indonesia.

Long Abstract

In promoting its mission work at home mission societies and mission departments of churches has a long record of using photographs to illustrate their work. To get the attention of church members the missionaries and their work, if needed including pictures of the 'mission field' and new convicts were the focus of mission photography.

Mission calendars appeared on the scene from 1949 on and gradually grew into a strong instrument to promote mission work in The Netherlands. Until the end of the seventies the concept was that photographs from missionaries and their work were shown on these mission calendars.

In the early eighties this started to change and the focus shifted to photographs of biblical art from artists from partner churches. In doing so at home new cooperation over denominational barriers could be realized and increasing numbers of colourful expressions of Christian art found their way into the houses of those supporting mission work.

This new way of communicating at home in line with the new mission concept of 'mission in six continents' is illustrated by the first calendar designed in this way, the background of this Bali mission, the ethnographic identity of the Balinese culture and the artists involved. A complete new expression as a church in Bali had been started only two decades earlier in the young church history on this Island.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.