Still pictures, moving contexts
Aston, J. and James, W. (2009) Still pictures, moving contexts. In: The Image Relation: Towards an Anthropology of Photography, Wolfson College, Oxford, UK, 11th November, 2009.
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Publisher's URL: http://www.wolfson.ox.ac.uk/
This presentation will highlight ways of presenting still photographs, both black and white and colour, as well as colour slides, using multimedia methods which add fresh resonance to archival materials. Examples will be drawn from James’s ethnographic photo collection from the Sudan and Ethiopia taken since the 1960s, and also from her father’s East African slide collection from the 1950s. The still photos will be deployed in a variety of groupings, with each other and with clips from audio recordings of voice and music, silent film and later video. Whereas film-makers can use such techniques to enhance the aesthetic impact of still photos, for example by playing a person’s voice over their portrait, the juxtaposition is chosen once by the director and that’s it. Multimedia techniqes, by contrast, can open the way for users of a photographic archive to explore for themselves ways of re-arranging archival materials and bringing to the eye and the ear otherwise unsuspected resonances between them. Up to now the preservation and display of still photos has mainly been the responsibility of archives and museums, and while the Pitt Rivers, for example, has pioneered presentations for the web, most of those who experiment with electronic forms concentrate on modern film and video (where sound and image are already linked). We argue for bringing still photos more centrally into the flexible field of multimedia. The possibilities are endless, and potentially useful not only for archives and museums, but for academic work in anthropology and history.