Accepted paper:

Stretching the Frame: Analogue and Digital Panoramic Photography as an Anthropological Research Tool


Luc Pauwels (University of Antwerp)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation will address the unique research potential and limitations of different panoramic imaging technologies, with a special focus on using the dramatic image ratio in depicting or expressing visual aspects of culture. This will be done in a theoretical and methodological way, but also in visual manner through original images made with a flat back panoramic camera.

Paper long abstract:

The panoramic view enjoyed a special attraction through several moments in the history of photography and experiences a resurge in the digital age. In many ways the panoramic image provides an exemplary case for discussing the ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ of photographic representation, or in other words the complex interactions between technology and visual (social) practices. Panoramic photographs entertain complex relations with time and space through different technologies (flat back, swing lens, 360° rotating, digital stitching). These different technologies embody very different ontological relations with the depicted (varying from snapshots with almost continuous or uniform time and space relations through dramatic time/space discontinuities).

Anthropologists could benefit from further exploring and theorizing the typical effects, subject choices and practices of panoramic photography, and from scrutinizing its largely unrealized research potential both as a data source and a tool for anthropological research. They could pursue the question what particular representational value the panoramic view could bring to the visual exploration and documentation of culture, and interrogate in which ways distinct panoramic technologies interact with or enable/construct particular ways of looking. But researchers should also explore the new opportunities of these distinct technologies to express scientifically informed insights in novel ways.

This presentation will address each of these issues in a theoretical, methodological but also visual way through images made with a flat back panoramic camera which exemplify some of the unique potential and limitations of using a dramatic image ratio in depicting or expressing visual aspects of culture.

panel P25
Photography, new technologies and the predicament of the frame: theoretical and methodological reflections