Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

220 × 190 × 16 mm
184 pages
91 illustrations, 50 in colour
01 Nov 2011

Photography and Archaeology Frederick N. Bohrer

Through photographs we preserve the past, and looking for the past is the very job of the archaeologist. But what are we looking at in an archaeological photograph? Archaeological photography is often largely deserted, to be scanned with a forensic gaze, towards finding evidence of what once took place. At the same time, photographs of excavated sites and artefacts have revealed stunning ancient works, shot as works of art. In Photography and Archaeology, Frederick Bohrer examines some of history's most famous archaeological excavations, as well as lesser-known and previously unpublished finds, from the Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia, Europe and the Americas, and the ways these sites have been represented in photographs. Bohrer shows how the development of photography in the nineteenth century made archaeology available to a much wider audience, and he discusses how these images revealed the material traces of the past, as well as their meaning and use today.

Spanning the dual histories of both photography and archaeology, the book makes evident how what we know of the archaeological past has always been related to how it has been photographically represented and circulated: in scholarly papers, popular accounts, scientific archives, museum catalogues and numerous other formats. Bohrer concludes that such images possess contending, if not mutually exclusive, properties. While photography seems to guarantee documentary objectivity, at the same time it also fundamentally alters the archaeological object, transforming it into a work of art. Along the way, he discusses archaeological examples and images by photographers including Maxime du Camp, Francis Frith, John Beazley Greene, Ernst Herzfeld and others, to more contemporary photographers such as Aaron Levin, Roger Wood and Marilyn Bridges.

Beautifully illustrated with fine archaeological images, many published here for the first time, Photography and Archaeology will be of interest to archaeologists, art historians and photographers, as well as anyone concerned with, or captivated by, archaeology's ongoing engagement with the past.

‘This is a beautiful book containing many gorgeous photographs and it is a delight to handle. It covers a broad range of material and will widen the horizons of readers familiar with standard histories of photography. The reader will be encouraged to dig more deeply into the archaeological publications of the past to discover more photographic delights.’ — Cassone Art Review

‘Photography's unreliability may seem like a well-worn subject. Yet the long history of archaeology's attempts to bend photography to its will allows this book - part of Reaktion's excellently-produced Exposures series - to unearth numerous photographic curiosities and provide some fresh insights into an issue on which you might have thought there was little new to say.'’ — Source

‘Bohrer explores the intimate relationship linking photography and archaeology, beginning as both disciplines started coming into their own in the 19th century. Four well-illustrated chapters address the distinctive and wide-ranging role of the photographic image standing in for the artifact, recording the context, and allowing both laypeople and scholars access to the world of archaeology . . . This brief but unique examination of the relationship between photography and archaeology addresses the many interesting facets of their long, intertwined history. Recommended.'’ — Choice

Photography and Archaeology is another worthy entry in Reaktion Books' series on photography and history, culture, and social sciences . . . [it] surveys the history of photography in archaeology, raising pointed questions about the past and our capacity to see, know, and represent it.'’ — Anthropology Review Database

‘This book explores the close ties between the rise of scientific archaeology and the spread of the new medium of photography from the mid-nineteenth century through to the present day. While many of us are aware that early archaeology's popularity was facilitated largely by means of photographic images, Bohrer demonstrates that, in their quest for the objective documentation of the past, archaeologists and scholars of antiquity were also directly involved in the invention of the new photographic technologies. This beautifully illustrated book will be welcomed by archaeologists and photography historians alike.'’ — Zainab Bahrani, Edith Porada Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, New York

Show all

Frederick N. Bohrer is Professor of Art at Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, and author of Orientalism and Visual Culture: Mesopotamia in Nineteenth-century Europe (2003).

Introduction: The Image as Object
One: Science, or Truth
Two: Travel, or Presence
Three: Meaning, or the Archive
Four: Art, or Reframing

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements