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220 × 190 × 16 mm
176 pages
90 illustrations, 68 in colour
01 Apr 2011

Photography and Anthropology Christopher Pinney

Photography and anthropology share strikingly parallel histories. Christopher Pinney’s provocative and eminently readable account provides a polemical narrative of anthropologists’ use of photography 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. Though viewed as modern and rational, this quality of photography in fact propelled anthropologists towards 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. For later anthropologists, this same quality became grounds to critique an imaging practice that failed to capture movement and process. But throughout these twists and turns, anthropology as a practice of ‘being there’ has found itself entwined in an intimate engagement with photography as metaphor for the collection of evidence.

Photography and Anthropology reveals how anthropology provides the tools to re-imagine the power and magic of all photographic practices. It presents both a history of anthropology’s seduction by photography and the anthropological theory of photography. This thoroughly researched book draws upon an intimate knowledge of the history of anthropology, photography and the world’s major anthropological practitioners.

‘Few scholars possess the breadth and depth of understanding required to merge topics as vast as photography and anthropology. In this masterful work, Pinney draws upon his own important monographs to present an engagingly idiosyncratic selection of cases and anecdotes from around the world and across literatures . . . In this excellent book to teach undergraduates, thoughts of theoreticians and anthropological luminaries are balanced by indigenous voices readers need to hear. Essential’ — Choice

‘Pinney successfully synthesises and builds on his decades of painstaking research in archives and collections around the world, and fieldwork among numerous communities engaged in making and using photographs. The volume is illustrated with eighty-nine fascinating images, gathered from over thirty collections, dating from the 1840s to the early twenty-first century. This book provides an accessible and succinct exploration of the two practices and the ways in which photography has been made to do anthropological work.’ — History of Photography Journal

‘What Pinney gives us, then, is a valuable analysis of the struggle to know, to see, to record, and to present . . . anthropologists interested in photography, ethnography, and the history and philosophy of the discipline will certainly benefit from contemplating the message that Pinney brings in this important book.’ — Anthropology Review

‘Christopher Pinney, in this richly illustrated and sharply focused monograph, highlights the intersection between two tools for investigating the cultural and natural worlds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As Pinney effectively points out, photography and anthropology grew up together, and an investigation which deconstructs their contexts of use brings out some very useful insights into the construction of an anthropological way of looking and the application of a technology for looking . . . enjoyable to read and a valuable example in how to integrate the reading of an image with a close reading of its value and use.’ — British Journal for the History of Science

Photography and Anthropology is a much-needed addition to the history of anthropology, one that complicates our understanding of technology and the production of anthropological knowledge. Pinneys analysis is strong, well written, and well researched, which makes this book an excellent resource for those interested in the history of anthropology and/or photography . . . a beautiful and thoughtful work that should be required reading for all graduate students studying visual anthropology.’ — Journal of Folklore Research

‘A masterful synthesis of his twenty years of explorations into the parallel histories of anthropology and photography, Chris Pinneys intellectual archeologies of image, observation, and evidence are at once deeply historical, deeply contemporary, deeply critical, and deeply provocative. I cant imagine a more vivid blow-up of how the photographic magic of realism mirrors and shadows the anthropological realism of magic.’ — Steven Feld, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Music, The University of New Mexico

‘Who better than Chris Pinney to adjudicate the magic of photography with the anthropology of the image, and do so in such a marvelously succinct, smart, and lively manner? With its cornucopia of wondrous accounts of how photography is set to work outside of Western culture, this book mightily expands both the meaning of the image and the power of a photograph. A tour de force.’ — Michael Taussig, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University and author of Mimesis and Alterity and What Color is the Sacred?

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Christopher Pinney is Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London. His publications include Camera Indica (1997), Photos of the Gods (2004) and Photography and Anthropology (2011), all published by Reaktion.

Prologue: Images of a Counterscience
One: The Doubled History of Photography and Anthropology
Two: The Trouble with Photography
Three: The Problem with Anthropology
Epilogue: The Holograph

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Photo Acknowledgements