Nostalgic, Personal, Neglected, Treasured, Rejected: The Other Photography in Archaeology

Fort Ross, Hipstamatic

This is my abstract for Heather Law’s TAG 2011 session, Open Dialogs in Archaeological Photography. I’m hoping that the photos I take will be worth the billing!

Our view of the past is hazy, inaccurate, hard to discern, never quite all there. Yet our record of such uncertainty is becoming dazzlingly clear; professional-quality digital SLR cameras producing high-dynamic range imaging are becoming the norm on archaeological projects and our photographic archives, once highly-curated collections of “scientific,” carefully set-up shots have exploded in size and diversified in content accordingly. Along with this extraordinary, high-tech verisimilitude runs a counter-narrative–photography on sites performed by students, workmen, professionals, and tourists using their cellphones.  These images are too casual, personal, low-rez, and are often unavailable to the official project. They find another life online, emailed to friends and posted on Flickr and Facebook, living beyond the archive and often becoming a much more visible public face than the more official photographs released by the project. 

Inspired by this tension between the personal and the formal and Damon Winter’s recent New York Times iPhone photo essay of soldiers in Afghanistan, I shed my cumbersome and conspicuous DSLR to explore the affective, casual, and nostalgic qualities of archaeological photography with my cellphone and on-board photo-editing applications. In a session focused on exploring the work that archaeological photography does, I will investigate the hazy, inaccurate, personal, and extra-archival qualities of the archaeological snapshot.

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2 responses to “Nostalgic, Personal, Neglected, Treasured, Rejected: The Other Photography in Archaeology

  1. Pingback: (some) iPhone Apps for Archaeologists Part II | Middle Savagery

  2. Pingback: The Other Photography – Getting Ready | Middle Savagery

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