Anthropology and photography
- Elizabeth Edwards
Photography and anthropology emerged almost simultaneously in the third decade of the 19th century and have been entangled ever since. There are two major strands to anthropological or ethnographic engagements with photography. In the first, photography has functioned as a tool through which to explore anthropological questions about cultural production, from art making to agriculture, as well as the construction of social identity, such as gender and race. Studies that adopt this approach rely on photographs to provide empirical evidence for analysis. The second strand concerns the anthropology of photographic practices. This work has explored different cultural uses, styles, and social expectations of photography as a medium; it has addressed the nuances, similarities, and differences through which photography functions as a social medium. In this body of work it becomes clear how the value of photographs is not necessarily determined through the content of images but through their capacity as social objects to mediate social relationships. Around these issues of social value, memory, and history, anthropological or ethnographic photography has become a site for both cultural critique and cultural recuperation, especially by indigenous, First Nations, and diasporic communities....