Customers who viewed this item also viewed. I can t imagine a more vivid blow-up of how the photographic magic of realism mirrors and shadows the anthropological realism of magic. Please try again later. Photography and anthropology share strikingly parallel histories.

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Man at work, c. Consider four moments, and four images, that catapult us along a trajectory of transformation into the history of anthropologys relationship with photography. The first of these images illus. Mans face is hidden in the cloak of his camera, which points at three children posed at the base of a tree. All this occurs in the top of three horizontal registers. In the middle register, and subsequently numbered by Man, is a range of Nicobarese sea life including a dugong, crocodile, turtle and ray.

In the lower register is the steamer Nancowry with a Malacca village, Spiteful Bay and Leda Point visible in the background. This drawing, pasted in at the beginning of one of E. Mans remarkable photographic albums of late nineteenth-century life in the Nicobar Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, mixes several genres.

Most obviously it is a drawing that engages photography. Less obviously it juxtaposes the screen imposed by the camera with the rigid frames of an enduring Nicobarese representational tradition, the henta-koi.

The three frames transfer onto paper the horizontal frames that characterize the wooden shields installed by shamans in Nicobarese homes afflicted with sickness and designed to ward off evil spirits. Henta-koi usually incorporated depictions of aquatic life-forms crabs, male mermaids, squid and symptoms of the Nicobar Islands long history of cultural contact with Burmese, Malay and Ceylonese traders, Jesuit missionaries and the detritus of sundry shipwrecks.

These include sailing ships, ships compasses, pocket-watches, telescopes, envelopes and mirrors whose very exotic hybridity seemed to be a source of strength to preserve the Nicobarese. Aborigines who commissioned bourgeois portraits of themselves and their families, the Aboriginal curator Michael Aird notes, felt a very real need to state their successes in the European community to ensure protection from oppressive protection policies.

Adults who requested assistance from the state could be forcibly relocated to Aboriginal stations. William Williamss family, from the Upper Logan River, for instance, lived and worked on their own land and Airds suggestion is that they managed to continue to do this is in part because they were able to mobilize photography in their defence. Their children were stockmen, drovers, axmen and housekeepers. Their descendants continue to live in Queensland and proudly identify themselves as Munanjahli.

The images had been collected by Julius Lips, ethnographer of Cameroon and curator of the Rautenstrauch-Joest anthropological museum. Part of a vibrant Cologne radical primitivism where everyone talked primitive art and popular songs took up the theme; posters advertised it,6 Lips started to accumulate a vast archive of photographs from museum collections of images and objects in which colonized peoples recorded their censure, buffoonery, astonishment, misunderstanding.

This was, as he later wrote in exile in the United States, the opportunity for the colonized to take vengeance upon his colonizer. In his book about the collection, published after Lips had fled Germany, he juxtaposed it with a photograph of the person to whom the carving referred: Edward vii as he actually was. The Nicobar double strove for some of the protective effect of the henta-koi for it was a scare-figure, a portrait of a high-status person intended to make evil spirits flee in terror and impotence before it.

This was possible through the deformation of the photographic referent the figures gaping mouth contrasts strangely with the kings genial smile and 3 Julius Lips, figs from The Savage Hits Back Lips stresses the considerable difference in attitude between a King who is thanking inspired citizens for their cheers, and the same King scaring devils.

The African No digital rights head in the ancient Coburg coat of arms was replaced by a sword and swastika. In March one of Lipss students a vest-pocket Hitler who had helped him mount his photographic archive arrived at his office accompanied by the State Secret Police.

They announced that Lipss project was contrary to the racial theories of the Fhrer, and the cardboards on which the pictures had been mounted came from the museum and therefore belonged to it. Lips fled to Paris, narrowly escaping arrest, and from there travelled to the United States, where he would found the anthropology department at the historically black Howard University. The leading anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, writing in in the introduction to Lipss The Savage Hits Back, celebrated a writer who is frankly the natives spokesman, not only of the native point of view, but also of native interests and grievances.

Man photographed in the Andamans and Nicobars, and miles north across the Bay of Bengal, the camera was called upon as a kind of amulet. It was September and Buddhist monks in Burma were leading a popular revolution. Those of you who are not afraid to die, come to front we hear an organizer shout to a crowd of monks and students as troops from the Burmese No digital rights 10 4 Burma VJ Anders stergaard, , still.

Army start to contain a large protest march. It is clear that the sense of a global photographic witness reassures these brave protestors. Clandestine video journalists allied with The Democratic Voice of Burma film the ensuing chaos and the deaths, including that of a Japanese photojournalist whose killing is repeatedly shown in Anders stergaards film Burma vj.

The film provides a chilling insurrectional point of view, reusing film shot with a new mobile technology from the point of view of the protestor on the street illus.

The events in Burma in mark a kind of limit point for anthropology and photography: this is cultural struggle and the struggle for political and representational autonomy in a seemingly post-anthropological world. If everyone has a camera, is there any role, any longer, for the anthropologist with a camera? However, one version of anthropology has closely, and critically, scrutinized its colonial past, and one version of anthropology has subjected itself to ethico-political self-critique more trenchantly, perhaps, than any other practice in the social sciences and humanities.

Because of this, anthropology or at least one version of it occupies a good place perhaps a uniquely privileged place from which to consider the relationship between images and culture, and images and power. Anthropologys engagement with cross-cultural questions of causation, evidence, personhood and monumentality among many other concerns demands that a history of its engagement with a technical practice photography so inextricably linked to all those themes itself becomes anthropological.

Michel Foucault suggested that anthropology in his usage ethnology , along with psychoanalysis, was one of the modern ages countersciences. It tries to ask, instead, what an anthropological destabilization of the relationship between anthropology and photography might look like.

Among the most anthropologically charged insights into photography, the origins of what would later come to be called Bild-Anthropologie by the art historian Hans Belting,14 were developed by the cultural critic Walter Benjamin in the s.

In an account that is decidedly anthropological in its sensibility, Benjamin described how early photography deposited aura in its ultimate point of retrenchment the face. The technology for the production of these faces created a new time-space: The procedure itself caused the subject to focus his life in the moment rather than hurrying on past it; during the considerable period of the exposure, the subject.

Benjamin cites Karl Dauthendeys anxiety about the facial presence in these early images: We were abashed by the distinctness of these human images, and believed that the tiny little faces in the picture could see us. Photographers are revealed as the descendants of augurs and haruspices, photography opens up an optical unconscious, and make[s] the difference between technology and magic visible as a thoroughly historical variable.

Technology suggests the apparatus of the camera and its chemical way of referring to the world. Magic suggests a contagion of qualities and the ability to produce effects beyond the range of ordinary bodies illus. The augurs Roman priests who studied the flight of birds as symptoms of future events and the haruspices who prospected in bones and entrails remain with us in the form of the photographer whose magical No digital rights 5 James Mackenzie Davidson, X-ray photography, the subject of experiments by various physicists from the late s onwards, provides a visual metaphor of photographys divinatory potential.

Benjamin wants to place magic and technology on the same spectrum, the one fading into the other, and each having the potential to erupt into each others time.

This Benjaminian perspective would only be explicitly acknowledged by anthropologists such as, for example Alfred Gell20 and Michael Taussig21 at the close of the twentieth century, and yet I will suggest that it can inform our understanding of much about the relationship between anthropology and photography throughout the nineteenth century.

The parallels between technology and magic and the questions of a bigger 13 Bild-Anthropologie were, to draw again on Benjamin: meaningful yet covert enough to find a hiding place in waking dreams.

This was one aspect of its doubly de-Platonizing agenda: for Plato, writing was a lifeless and dangerously disseminatory technical system, just as the shadows and external forms it preserved were degraded copies of the truth of the mind. For early anthropologists, external forms offered stability and reassurance through what E. Tylor would later call object lessons. Anthropologists wanted raw data about the incredible diversity of the worlds peoples.

By Sir James Frazer author of The Golden Bough was able to praise the new ethnography that resulted from very lengthy residence in the field. Introducing Bronislaw Malinowskis paradigm-changing Argonauts of the Western Pacific, Frazer noted that the author had lived as a native. Anthropologists were suspicious of verbal data and personal observation lacked the methodological rigour that it would later acquire.

There was a twofold problem with native testimony: anthropologists were quite likely not to understand it because most lacked the necessary linguistic competence, but they were also sceptical of the transparency of natives, assuming that irrelevance, deviation and untruth were likely to predominate. Flowers observation that physical characters are the best, in fact the only tests. Later, even E. Man who was skilled in the languages of the Andamans and Nicobars where he worked would argue that more correct information [can] be obtained from photography than from any verbal description.

As with any new intellectual practice and disciplinary formation, it is important to retain a sense of the incoherence and contradiction that attended its historical articulation. It is important not to endow it retrospectively and anachronistically with a purpose and unity it lacked.

In this respect it is crucial to underline how uninterested many nineteenth-century anthropologists were in culture. For much of that century it was the human body that constituted the proper terrain for study and for many, anthropology was little more than a form of comparative anatomy.

An anthropological definition of culture did not emerge until , in Edward Burnett Tylors Primitive Culture. Further, there was no single methodology.

Much of what would be called anthropology was the product of a division of labour between men on the spot and theorists and synthesizers based in the colonial metropole Oxford, Paris, Berlin and elsewhere.

The men on the spot might be missionaries, traders or colonial administrators. And some of those did their own work of theorizing and publishing without resorting to a Tylor or a Frazer to mediate their observations. Photography was quickly recognized as a vital tool in the transmission of data, and what was thought to be reliable data at that. Photographys chemical connection to what it depicted, the fact that, as Benjamin wrote, it was seared with reality,26 suggested that it might be capable of capturing and conveying facts about which there is no question.

The emergence of fieldwork towards the end of the nineteenth century as a methodology central to anthropologys new vision of itself through the work of men such as James Mooney, Franz Boas and Alfred Cort Haddon collapsed the earlier separation of labour: the anthropologist was now to do all their own research.

Many figures associated with Haddon, particularly W. Rivers and Charles Gabriel Seligman, were pioneers of this new sacred protocol, but it was the self-mythologization by Bronislaw 15 Malinowski that would enshrine him, in the early twentieth century, as the founder of a new discipline. The chapter that now follows traces photographys centrality to this emergent anthropology.


(Exposures) Christopher Pinney-Photography and Anthropology-Reaktion Books (2011)



Christopher Pinney



Photography and Anthropology


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