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Visual Culture in the Subcontinent
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Exhibition in Berlin | The Colonial Eye : Early Portrait Photography in India

Exhibition in Berlin | The Colonial Eye : Early Portrait Photography in India | Indian Photographies | Scoop.it

"One of the world's most comprehensive and significant collections of portrait photography from India is on exhibit for the first time. The collection was originally thought to be lost during World War II, only gradually returning to Berlin's National Museums beginning in the 1990s.
Now, around 300 photographs from the second half of the nineteenth century offer a comprehensive overview of portrait photography from the Indian subcontinent. In addition to pictures by renowned photographers and studios such as Samuel Bourne, Sheperd & Robertson, A.T.W. Penn, and John Burke, works by lesser known artists are also on display. Popular and unexpectedly diverse ethnographic photography of the time stands in contrast to stylised street shots of artisans, as well as portraits of nobility, including Islamic princes and princesses, Maharajas, and clan leaders, taken in their own palaces or in artfully set studio scenes.

One unifying aspect of many early portraits is a particularly European view - "The Colonial Eye". In the second half of the nineteenth century, in the name of science and colonialism, the land and its inhabitants were to be apprehended through observation and cataloguing, analysation and measurement. The fascination with India was especially evoked by the strange-looking indigenous peoples and the caste-system, as well as the splendour of the Indian nobility and the austere life of ascetics."

 

Photograph : Bourne & Shepherd (?), Andamanen-Insulaner, um 1880, Albuminabzug

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Book of The Week : 'Photography and Anthropology' by Christopher Pinney

Book of The Week : 'Photography and Anthropology' by Christopher Pinney | Indian Photographies | Scoop.it

"In Photography and Anthropology, Christopher Pinney presents a provocative and readable account of the strikingly parallel histories of the two disciplines, as well as a polemical narrative and overview of the use of photography by anthropologists from the 1840s to the present. Walter Benjamin suggested that photography “make[s] the difference between technology and magic visible as a thoroughly historical variable,” and Pinney here explores photography as a divinatory practice that prompted anthropologists to capture the “primitive” lives of those they studied.

 

Early anthropology celebrated photography as a physical record, whose authority and permanence promised an escape from the lack of certainty in speech. But later anthropologists faulted photography for failing to capture movement and process. Anthropology as a practice of “being there” has thus found itself entwined in an intimate engagement with photography as metaphor for the collection of evidence.

 

Through numerous examples from the annals of anthropological photography, Photography and Anthropology examines the history of anthropology’s enchantment with photography alongside the anthropological theory of photography and documentation."

 

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Read also the review by Ram Rahman in The Indian Express

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-long-story-behind-the-image/854095/

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