The Parallel Histories of Anthropology and Photography

Christopher Pinney





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THAT THE HISTORIES ANTHROPOLOGY we would OF as recognize it today and of photography have followed parallel courses is a simple proposition to demonstrate, That they also appear to derive their representational power through nearly identical semiotic procedures requires, perhaps, a slightly more elaborate case to be made. It is with the establishment of these two related propositions that this essay is, in the first instance, concerned, What the cssa y also seeks to do is sketch two apparently alternative interpretations of the histories of anthropology and photography which make rather different sense of their narratives. In the first interpretation, photography appears as the final culmination of a Western quest for visibility and scrutiny. It stands at the technological, semiotic and perceptual apex of 'vision', which itself serves as the emulative metaphor for all other ways of knowing (see Rorty 1980; Tyler 1984; Salmond 1982).1 As truth, representation and commodity it is in an unrivalled class of its own, Those who accept this rendering of history include those who, like its early adherents, evaluate it positively (it was described as 'an angel copier; a God-like machine of which light and sunshine is the animating Promethean fire', [ourual of the Photographic Society 1859: 144), and also some of its more recent detractors, who reveal in their critiques a fcar of its power. 2 The second possible history stresses that photograph y, although often acclaimed as the apotheosis (either good or evil) of a Western civilization grounded in ocularism has always suffered 'moments of unease' (Jacqueline Rose, cited by Jay 1988:3-4). Such unease can be conceptualized in a number of ways ranging from a recurrent tension between photography's 'iconic' and 'indexical' status:' (Jay n.d.), between 'art' and 'verisimilitude', or a stress on the dcconstructivc lines of fracture which both underpin and undermine photography's single-voiced authority." In seeking at this stage to establish the parallel histories of anthropology and photography, we do not digress from the above matter since in anthropology too we arc likely to find the same disputed narratives and ostensibly closed meanings. Rather, recording the coincidence of the establishment of the Aborigines Protection Society in 1837 and that of the Ethnological Society of London in 1843 (Stocking 1971 :369-72) with the development of the first successful daguerreotype in 1837 and the public announcement of fox Talbot's 'photogenic drawing' in 18395 is intended to establish a coterminous framework in which we might see these two related practices performing the same disputed and undecided movements and routines.


its film' (1989:68. before I saw those photographs . so that every surface immediately became war's recording 511 rjace . This was a 'negative epiphany' created by the power of photography: 'it seems . Thus Paul Virilio. This is akin to the process of military subjection through illumination. we are all 'human negatives' waiting to be processed (1989:47). (Courtesy of Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Haddon Collection.The first history Let us first examine the trium phalist version of photographic and anthropological history.her own life. Although he did not concern himself with photography per se (he was writing about the role of vision and visibility in the growth of the modern prison and the clinic)." She sees the camera's popular incarnation as a predatory weapon which is 'loaded'. draw ISO/3. which conceals supporters and detractors who both agree ultimately on the persuasiveness and certainty of its power.. photographs of BergenBelsen and Dachau glimpsed in a bookshop when she was twelve (1979:19). Inscribed 011 the reverse: 'Winter houses of woven "slough" grass and cowskins. what Virilio calls the 'war of light' from the first use of the searchlight in the 1904 Russo-Japanese war to 'the bloody Hiroshima flash which literally photographed the shadow cast by beings and things. plausible to me to divide my life into two parts. and after'. It is a medium whose certainty and specificity can change lives .. who is without doubt a detractor.IH80 by Hudson's Gallery. Cabinet card c. rather than of 'light'. she observes. Tania. 'aimed' and 'shot'. is divided by her 'first encounter with the photographic inventory of ultimate horror'. although they place this power at onc remove. original emphasis).. ' (1979:14). Susan Sontag has espoused a particularly influential negative interpretation of photography which stresses its fatal attractions. In the atomic age. The camera is a 'sublimation of the gun' and 'to photograph people is to violate them .. sees in photography and film a technical manifestation of the process of knowing through visibility and the threatening penetration oflight. spoiled by the white man in the foreground'. many writers have been forcibly struck by the remarkable parallels between the eye of surveillance that lay at the centre of the panopticon prison or traversed the disciplinarian spaces of the examination and the eye of the Western photographer who documented the other peoples of the world and 44. University of Cambridge) Christopher Pinney 75 . as primarily a function of the requirements of a disciplining state. Virilio bleakly observes. Iowa. Such negative testimonies to the power of photography7 also find succour from some interpretations of the work of Michel Foucault.

1 III a paper in the Journal of the Ethnolocica! 76 Introductory Essays . I t But photography's power does not reside only in the longed-for invisibility of its producer. Lamprey in 1869. Their llisibi/ity assumes the hold of the power that is experienced Oller them. University of Oxford. I. of being able always to be seen. it is the subjects who have to be SCCII. (Foucault 1979: 87. Foucault 1970). the photographer is invisible behind his camera. and repressing production (Burgin 1982) involves the effacement of allY marks of the presence of the photographer's culture. N. While on the one hand the surface is invisible.1. cabinet-card study of 'winter houses of woven "slough" grass and cowskins ' (Plate 44) locates the European figure as a sort of scratch on the negative. III discipline. Photograph (Courtesy of Pitt Rivers Museum. but also in the apparent self-presence of its surface. Berger 1972:54 for comments on the absence of the 'principle protagonist' in painting).the strange inhabitants of his own domestic terra incoonita. at the same time it imposes 011 those whom it subjects a principle (~l((Jmpulsory visibility. The influence of Johan Casper Lavater's physiognomy (Shortland 1985) among other factors had helped dispel the earlier 'noise' of the body to the extent that nineteenth-century anthropology was able to call on fully legible bodies for inspection.. Thus the remark 'spoiled by white man in the foreground' in the Hudson's Gallery. a transparent window 011 to a slice of reality. It is the fad being constantly seen.H. and ill which conversely. Evans-Pritchard. I'RM EP. Precipitation has here precipitated the exposure of the photographer's presence and perhaps it is not too far-fetched to see this mirroring of the viewers' own culture in the tent pole and flap as modern anthropology's Las Meninas (Fernandez 1985.. a blemish which betrays the presence of the photographer and his culture. When photography is operated in conjunction with anthropology the necessity of stressing re-production. In photography. the means o] coercion make those 011 whom they are applied dearly visible'. and Dcrrida's critique of this 1976: 107 -40)<)). no pagination. the surface of the print maps a quantitative grid over the Cartesian depths which lie within the image (see Jay 1988:13 for painterly parallels). Simon Watney observes for instance: Foucault might well have been talkillg about photo. Photography fitted perfectly into such a framework and can be substituted for the idea of discipline/surveillance in almost all of Foucault's writing. but betrays through the peripheral presence of tent flaps the presence of the photographer (Evans-Pritchard) behind the camera. citing Foucault 1979:170-71) The objects of photography can be easily and repeatedly substituted for the objects of discipline: Disciplinary power . Photography's mimetic effect reduces the reader to the pure consumer of a sign in which the signifier appears to have collapsed with the signified (Tagg 1980:53). while what he sees is rendered completely visible (cf. 12 These demanded formalized systems of reading and one of the most influential was produced by J. that maintains the disciplined individHal ill his subjection. Iowa. (Watney. see also Sontag 1979: 14 for a similar statement)" or 45. At this point the recurrent anthropological quest for Otherness coincides exactly with the trick that photography enacts in pursuit of its 'reality effect'. Just as the anthropologist is often concerned with the polluting effect of his presence on those he studies (see for example Levi-Strauss on the corrupting effect of the 'introduction' of writing among the Nambikwara 1976:322-416. so the anthropological photographer strives to preserve the purity of the cultural other that he represents. is exercised through its invisibility. Discipline and photography seem here to coalesce ill a com mon language of success dependent on the assumed transparency of the medium (Sekula 1982:86). as with 'discipline'. 10 Such a line of argument might also point to an illustration in The Nuer(Plate 45) which depicts in the main an August shower in full pelt. 'August Shower'. the expanding industrial city. 43) by E.({rapizy WizCII he described the exercise {~ldisriplille as 'all apparatus ill which the (1'{/lI1iqIlCSthat make it possible to sce induce the dIals of power.

but also contains in the very material reality of its space another plane of 'truth'. of the 'reaction-time of Dog to sight of falling body (biscuit)' (Plate 47). a precise marker. Such things we take for granted. Rivers. its embodiment within its own iconic resemblance of a physical trace of the material world (see Wright. look like. This provided a 'normalising' grid within which 'the anatomical structure of a good academy figure or model of six feet in height can be compared with a Malay of four feet eight in height' (1869:85). The dried skeleton of a leaf and the imprint of light on chemicals on the surface of the albumen print of the 'Lucknow immigrant' (Plate 49) are in Pcirccan terms the same. its referents) is also indexical. 1-1. (Courtesy Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. is: a trace. (Krauss. the surface of the image literally becomes a rule. but see also Krauss 1984) the desire for what Tagg characterizes dismissivcly as a 'pre-linguistic certainty' (1988:4). like a [ootprint or a death mask . 'This is my dog'.. a material vestige (~f its subject.Among those who argue for what I am describing here as the first history of photography. The sensitivity of film emulsion as the recording surface of those objects passed before the lens has fulfilled in science (Green 1985. Sekula 1986) and the public (Bourdieu a snapshot from his wallet and sayjn.H . Lamprey.. this volume). parallel to . 189()s. something directly stencilled (~[f the real. this volume). In the case of a study. or ~. like the desiccated skeleton.. As Sekula notes: Nothino could be more natural than . (Sontag 1979: 154) a pllOtocilCllliw/ly processed trace .It/asses leave 011 tables. 'Reaction-time of Dog to sight of falling body (biscuit). 14 The photograph depicts objects not only within a precise Cartesian perspectival depth.S. (1982:86) 47. II· 0 " f/ I!F6 " 30"6 Christopher Pinney 77 . fillgerprints or [ootprints or the rings of water that cold . University of Cambridge) 46.1870. for a signified that exists prior to attempts to represent it. When such certainty and precision is attempted by the material surface of the written text (as in Plate 48) the effect is altogether alien. By this is meant. IS The photograph. (RA! 35892) (. Peirce... Society oj London he advocated the use of a wooden frame with silk threads hung so as to form two-inch squares (see Spencer..' Photograph probably by W.~.. cited by Prochaska 1990:4(4) Photography arrived with a peculiar ability to COI1struct a photochemical index of the play of light over the surfaces of distant objects in the form of the photograph itself. a man pttllin. Anthropometric study. there is a consensus that the reason we are able to take this photographic verisimilitude for granted is that photography as well as being iconic (its images resemble.. Michel de Ccrteau has noted that normalization utilized a cellular grid that 'transforms space itself into an instrument that can be used to discipline' (1986:186) and Lamprey provided a disciplinary grid stripped of all metaphoricity.h?U:i . following C. The grid made explicit the transcription of space on the very surface area of the photographic image (Plate 46). probably by W. Rivers. R..f-!Jc¥n. R. Photograph by J.

with its form that was scmiotically identical to the 'ritual of photography' (Tomas 1982. be was coolly suggesting the abandonment of what had been a quite clearly articulated anthropological privileging of the still and the silent over the quick and living. can for the purpose of this essay be broken into two movements. he finally lights on an image of her which 'collected all the possible predicates from which my mother's being was constituted' and which. marks a productive union between two practices intent on 'dc-Platonizing' the world. the impossible science oj the unique being' (1984:70-71. prefers the image to the thing. present photography as uniquely privileged. This may be seen in part as 78 Introductory Essays . was able to invoke and displace the earlier codes of truth. at least. the 'social facts' they mobilized were not thought a suitable object for photography. foIlowing the death of his mother. The second of these. and sharing a common language of the penetration of light and the transcription of temporal disjunctions (Wright 1987). he wrote at one point. Some of the texts1(. and at the end of his life. 1988). of Roland Barthes. with pretensions to science. marked an important step towards documentary field photography) complained that until that date the objects of photography might just as well have been dead as alive. The image was not reality. Photography's 'dc-Platonizing' tendency found a willing victim in early anthropology. In his final manifestation.. becoming more manifest from the turn of the century onwards. Although these have rightly been criticized for their synchronic nature and cumbersome geometrical and mechanical mctaphorization. Krauss 1981) and is encountered at every point in our daily lives (sec Greenblatt's discussion (1987:10-11) of the photograph of the Nevada Falls etched into aluminium so that a sceptical public can compare it with the reality before them). 'utopically. Rivers Museum. When in 1893 Everard im Thurn in his advocacy of a new role for the camera in anthropology (one which. Baudrillard 1983. the copy to the original. the representation to the reality.48. Barthes plays an important role in the first history of photography.. although as we shall see later he provides as many arguments for the undecidable and polysemic nature of the medium. University of Oxford) Measure 011 the cover of Notes and Qlleries all Anthropo- Pitt Within four years of the announcement of photography. appearance to being' (The Essence oj Christianity. saw the gradual displacement on to an invisible internalized world of meaning in rc-Platonizing anthropological strategies such as a concern with 'social structure'. 'a message without a code' (1983:196). calls on this new and superior medium in its quest to re-present areas of darkness under the revealing light of investigation. Ever since. Photography. running from anthropology's and photography's inception to the turn of the century. 1899. he was not condemning the unspoken desires of anthropology to control mute objects in its macabre museum of vanishing races and little-known facts. which is dealt with in greater depth by Poignant (this volume). Fcucrbach was bemoaning that 'our era . achieved for Barthes. original emphasis). involved no transformation or 'relay' between object and photo-: graphic image. though phenomenologically an 'ordinary' object. The first of these. Let us at this point pursue some of the possibilities and implications of this first version of photographic history in which a fledgling anthropology. in his grief. photography's power to institute an image world which supersedes its referents has continued to preoccupy theorists (see Boorstin 1963. even. cited by Sontag 197<):153). but it was its 'perfect analogon'. in theory at least. (Courtesy of the Balfour Library. Crucial to the shift between these two movements was the emergence of the ficldworkcr as the central valida tor of the anthropological enterprise which. logy 3rd cdn. The history of this relationship. Rather.

1 I I 49.1860s. (Courtesy of the 79 . Albumen print inscribed 'Lucknow Trustees of the British Museum) Immigrant' pasted on the same sheet as skeleton of a leaf. c.

on the other hand. 17 The non-photographic index in the nineteenthcentury practice of anthropometry served to transform the living into the quiet. fullface and profile studies. when not thus prepared make many mistakes. A final blank page left room for more detailed observations. rates of abdominal breathing.stood at the apex of this visual examination contingent 011 death. it could not but be so. (Preface to Measurements and Medical Details: Male Series: North Andaman Group oj Tribes. ) No one who has not made the attempt call well realise how difficult it is to secure a fidl and accurate statement 011 any . 14. the subject into the object indeed in this transformation lay the very definition of science and objectivity. the curtain oj Il(rtht over truth. u/e have the actual physica! confirmation of the individuals comprising any tribal or caste uniti . the cessation of time which Barthes (1977:44) continually stressed and which in Christian Metz's view makes the still photograph a powerful fetish (Metz 1985). There were additionally four volumes of statistics composed of printed schedules (Plate 50ii) headed Observations 011 External Characters. and death. (Foucault 1976:166. in some cases. and long narrative sequences which illustrated the procedures for making artefacts such as adzes and bows. vol. . I have seen them. Thomas 1990).. The possibility that the North Andamancsc had more searching vision than their rulers is clearly something that Portman and Molesworth arc eager to discount: Allowing fin the accurateness gained by practice and necessity. and in this case photography. is paradoxically. an assessment of the subject's temperament (in the case of Riwa. But this battery of data can also be seen as an embodiment of a superior Western knowledge underpinned by vision. rate of respiration. while in anthropology's case this temporal displacement in the form of the 'ethnographic present' can be seen to serve specific power interests. opens up to the light cif day the black coffer oj the body: obscure l[fe. 1894:2) Where vision stood as the paradigm of privileged knowledge. while a European stalldill.rtdit. V. Nineteenth-century medicine was haunted by that absolute eye that cadaverixes life and rediscovers ill the corpse the frail. These elicited fifty-four items ofinfonnation and tracings of each subject's right hand and left foot were appended (Plate 50i).one consequence of the medical trairnng of many nineteenth-century anthropologists and the more general adoption by all investigations of which man was the object of a mode of enquiry whose origin was medical: That which hides and envelops. who if passed through the same trainino would see as well as they do.rt by them gave the accurate name oj the person seen. pulse beats per minute. l haue heard astonishment expressed at the way ill which they will accurately name other Andamanese who may be at a considerable distance but it should be remembered that they distinguish by. Portman and Molesworth's great industry was directed towards the generation of statistical norms they give figures in their preface for average height.l(iVClI point by verbal enquiry from Orientals and still more. In photography's 'spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority' (Barthes: ibid) we may perhaps sec the inverted precursor of 'the ethnographic present' of the post-Malinowskian monograph. the President of the Anthropological Society of Bombay.) Cranial measurements. and moreover they knou) whom they expect to see in that particular place. photography also colludes with anthropology in the temporal distantiation of its object (Fabian 1983. broken nervure of life. temperature and weight of males of the North Andarnans. argued for the indexical reliability of anthropometry in a talk on The Study oj Alithropology in India: A similar distinction between dialogue and observation is made by Tylor. Perhaps the most elaborate usc of the photographic and other indices is Portman and Molesworth's photographic and statistical survey of the Andamans COI11pleted in 1894.. Within the margin of this passage lies a further demonstration of the alliance of Western knowledge of the 'Other' and First and in some respects most valuable of all. limpid death. in enacting this specific thanatographic metaphor. (Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay 1890:121 ) 80 Introductory essays . Thus in 1890 Denzil Ibbotson.literally (mine) 'own eye' (Hartog 1988:xix) . on the cOlltrary.. etc. life. and therefore are on the lookout. are probably almost absolutely free [rom the personal equation o] the observer. the oldest imaoinary values oj the Western world are crossed here ill a stranoe misconstruction that is the very meanino oj pathological anatonty . Thus. 'nerve-sanguine'). M. who cautioned enquirers against asking 'un-called for questions' and advocated instead the observation of 'religious rites actually performed' (Stocking 1983:72). .sec Desmond 1982:55 for two examples).. from semi savagest. Portman made eleven volumes of photographs which depicted Andamanese in front of chequcrcd screens (a later elaboration on Lamprey's grid . including. their s(rtht does not appedr to be superior to that oj allY ordinary European. In photography's case the fractional moment of exposure necessarily produces an immediate memento mori. . as we do. cited by Jay 1986:21) The autopsy . because most trustworthy.

Moles- vision. 1894. One explanation for the partial elimination of the photographic image (as indexical proof of 'being there') in the postwar period might lie in the triumph of fieldwork and the fact that anthropology has so profoundly and subliminally absorbed the idiom of photography within the production of its texts that it has become invisible. but we have learned a wiser lesson. Portman ObserJJaliolls 011 External Characters. writing in 1962. (Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum) and W. Luc de Hcusch noted the absence of photographs in monographs. worth's Tracings of Andamancse hands and feet and schedule of 'Preliminary Particulars' in M. he wrote. is it possible that photography and a mctaphorization of its technical and ritual procedures Christopher Pinney 81 . V. for the possibility that the Andamallese have superior powers is received aurally (and is consequently incorrect). the 'divine' power of photography comes to reflect a Western technological and epistemological prowess: the pagan nations of antiquity worshipped the SUIl .'mere hearsay' versus the testimony of the 'eyewitness'). I have already hinted at the rc-Platonizing trend of twentieth-century anthropology. whereas verification of their inferior vision is reported visually ('I have heard' versus 'I have seen' . has I hope by now been sufficiently demonstrated in this hastily drawn sketch of the first history of photography. This fading away occurred first in the pages of learned journals and then in the ethnographic monograph.. Bur. In this version. Sometimes. in the context of colonialism. and one further explanation may lie in the discipline's continuing attempt to distance itself from other imaginary genres such as travel photography and the emerging 'photo-text' (see Pratt 1986 for a parallel argument). but docs so with considerable reluctance as if the emotive power of the picture. cited by Wright 1987:ii) But.50i-ii. The matrix. 'an ethnographer goes so far as to publish pictures of men he has known and liked. photography-visionWestern knowledge-power. (introductory address in Tire Photographic News 1858. being foreign to his purpose embarrasses him' (1987:107). but leaves unresolved the question of the increasing disappearance of the non-portrait photographic image.. we have sdent~ficany utilised the object of pagan worship and made his goldell rays subservient to the purposes of all artijicia! life. the norm increasingly becoming dense pages of unbroken written text. This may well explain the discomfiture created by portraits. like a drop of oil expanding over the surface of clear water.

was always very fragile. although both these ideas are equally questionable. and of more interest to us here. 18 Photography is thus revealed to be much less and much more important than We had thought. Participant observation transcribed in monographic text now captured the soul of a people.the inverse of the ethnographer's own society.. that this certainty. a lack of confidence in itself at cvery turn: Nothino could be more natural than . a stage which is formally analogous to the production of the photographic negative when the allimportant rays of light which guarantee the indexical truth of the image are allowed to fall on. The Malinowskian science of anthropology and its stigmatized rivals existed in the same 'logocentric' relationship of hierarchical oppositional dependence that pertains between speech and writing (Dcrrida 1976). Jean La Fontaine recently commenced her definition of what social anthropology is in terms of what it is not (La Fontaine 1985:1). having been prepared to receive and record messages in negative form during a moment of exposure in 'the field'. 'This is my dog'. but that it has always betrayed. after suitable processing. according to one anthropological paradigm at least. a foreign periphery.. The anthropologist has taken on to his own person the functions of a plate of glass. emphasis added) I have already suggested that Malinowski's logization marks the critical displacement my thoof the indexical language of photography on to an area of 'culture' and its analogues which was precisely that terrain which for earlier figures such as Ibbetson had lain beyond the possibilities of indcxicality.before the corrupting effects of writing (I have in mind Levi-Strauss's discussion of the Narnbikwara in Tristes Tropiques 1976:322-416). through an analysis of the ethnographic pioneers of monographic verisimilitude. that 'certainty' is the effect of other non-photographic structures. Lindt. She shows. and. is able. first. to present them in a 'positive' state in the ethnographic monograph. However.r" The temporal anteriority of the photograph may well suit an anthropology grounded in the temporal displacement of its object (Fabian 1983). and it has always been something other than what would fall into the genre of travel writing. in its unconscious gestures. The anthropologist's exposure to data thus occurred during a period of inversion from his normal reality. This second history argues. photography's role as a form of speech (Benjamin noted that it had the quickness of speech) predisposes it in a more positive sense to record those cultures which. The other history of photography and anthropology The second history of photography (one which has been slower to emerge) argues by reference to both a chronological narrative and the analysis of images that not only has photography not been able to validate its claims to truth.the field') to which the anthropologist had to be indcxically exposed for a recognized period (about two years in the Malinowskian model). a man pul/in. by contrast. now the field workeranthropologist came into what was articulated as an unmcdiated relationship with the people he studied. A combination of the Durkhcirnian stress on the importance of distantiation as a guarantee of ' social facts' and anthropologists' position as members of imperial and colonial metropoles meant that nearly always 'the field' was a place characterized as 'remote' (Ardener 1987) . that anthropology has always shown itself to be a 'not-something' rather than a 'thing-in-itself'. commenting that such a strategy of identity grounded in negative differentiation is an innovative expediency for a burgeoning discipline which once was precisely sure about what its 'is' was. J. between photography and painting. has argued that a textual fieldwork based on anthropology has always defined itself as a genre in a negative strategy.personal communication). exist. second.R a snapshotfrom his wallet and saying. There appears an affinity here between the natural presence of the photograph and the natural presence of the primitive. In 1883 that photographer of Australian Aborigines in reconstructed settings. howsoever derived. its authority was greater than that of the casual visitor whose naive presence and presumptions were frequently conjured lip in anthropology's rhetoric of truth (Pratt 1986:27).have so informed the determination of the squiggles and marks on the surface of the pages of the ethnographic monograph that it has ensured its own redundancy to the point where the photographic recording surface can be justified within anthropology only when allied with some other drive such as 'narrative' which allows it to be constituted as 'film'? How could this be so? One line of poetic speculation might propose the following: the new heroic fieldworking anthropologist/ethnographer located the 'afar' which Rousseau had long before identified as essential for the study of 'Man' as a definite place (. Its identity has always been constructed through superiority and difference. declared that: 82 Introductory Essays . or strip of film!" which. (Sekula 1982:86. W. Whereas once it had been the camera which had recorded the refraction of light off objects. the negative's emulsion (this analogy was first suggested by David Tomas . Mary Louise Pratt.

. emphasis added) Similarly.M. while at the same time the quality of the negative enables him to keep the likeness (the vital part of the photographic portrait) intact.Uill(. A.xplor~:. (1942:41) In both Lindt's and Bateson's cases. (Courtesy of Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. ~Iay zl.P. thing which we have described in the first history of the medium? Why. indexical truth is guaranteed by its depth in the negative. but this adds no drawing to the photograph.~reatest advantage.:1 Wl!'t\T:\I\ 1'111'First TRIBES OF . did photography (at least in the West) beat a retreat into the heart of the negative fr0111 this Christopher Pinney 83 .th(:higl~cstulh.~raphs. and it is on such negative« that the work (~fthe retoucher shows to the . Gregory Bateson was eager to distance the images in Balinese Character a photographic analysis from the active threat of non-indexical visuals: In a la~~e number of cases. (1883.hiding from a surface present.' Photograph by A.t. by A.(iOR. Albumen print on board with letterpress. Just as archaeology relies on the objective truths of the buried fragments of 'material culture' concealed from the surface pollution of the present by depth.ll.V('..OOIJ\\L"i. as was claimed.000 feet 011 MIHlI1t. Tribes P//(I/ogra/>/I I..P. some shading was done in the process of enlar. and its threatening pollutants are located on the surface.lcrRunge.(.ilh.Goodwin.1101l1ltaill (. preface to Lindt 1886.t 011(: h. for 'truth' here appears to be in retreat .HI Me (/kl·. One might ask how can this be so if photography is that all-powerful. good and evil. Goodwin's 'First Photograph Taken of the Mountain Tribes of South Eastern New Guinea' (1889)) locates its reliability in its priority. But this indicates something of significance.S. 1~H)9. Musgr. the Leader of the hxpcthw . desperate to establish that its record comes before all subsequent (false?) imaging.'<'II o/I/It' ..(!iIJea more complete rendering oj what is present ill the negative. 'The First Photograph taken of the Mountain Tribes of South Eastern New Guinea.r/.I\'c\ p:~rt (jf . 51./ SOlltll Eastern Photoglaphl. To be buried deep in the negative is to be true." .KC. 0.J Oven S~an. so photography relies on a spatialization of its temporal antcriority within the negative. 1889. if from the date of its inception painting was dead.01 altitude of ::.r.l' xsw GUINEA. ol1ly makitl<~ it possible Jor the paper to . to be 'before' the others (as in Plate 51. just as to be 'first'.:ing the pllOto. lighting. P. at the Special ~l·qllt. University of Cambridge) I have always paid the greatest attention to the production oj negatives as nearly as possible perject ill expression. and pose.'d at . ~Ik \\ ILLI.IIl.

' Frontispiece to A Description 'if a Sinoular Aborigillal Race Inhabitino the Summit of the Neiloherrv Hills. had long been the subject of scholarly interest.frightening interference with its surface?21 Perhaps some clues to the answer may arise from an examination of the uncertain usc made of photography by were photographically defined largely through the views of studios such as Bourne and Shepherd who photographed them ill family groups around their homes. The Living Races of Mankind. The Veddas. a line of dcconstructivc fracture which runs underneath it and through which the literal always reveals itself in tropic figures. Rivers and e. unsustainable in his imagery. an early exercise in 'para-ethnography' reproduced one of these views as a full-page plate and remarked that Toda countenances were 'such as we are accustomed to associate with the ancient Roman' and that they inhabit 'a sort of tropical Switzerland [where 1 draped in a sort of toga. age in the usc of the camera by the anthropologist. but the majority are either technically poor photographs from Rivers's own hand or artful and picturesque studies from the studio of Wiele and Klein. substantialize the previous and inferior discourse against which " TU DA r·AMI LV. those by Wiele and Klein present a pastoral vision of a leafy arcadia (see Hockings. (Courtesy of the Balfour Library. At this time the Tod. among whom Seligman worked in 1907 -8.G. as Pratt argues.22 But from Rivers's perspective at the beginning of the twentieth century. among whom Rivers (and for a short time Thurston) started fieldwork in 1901. two veterans of the second Torres Straits Expedition (1898-9). the indexical becomes iconic and symbolic. 52. Rivers's textual criticism of earlier romanticisms is. rccognizably modern. the 'authority' of photography came to look as uncertain as that of painting. and photography becomes nothing more and nothing less than a kind of painting. For Rivers. as the second history of photography would lead us to suspect. A few of his photographic illustrations arc reproductions from Brccks (1873). Pitt Rivers Museum. proof of methodological rigour lay in dis-enchantment. Seligman.R. they have quite the grand air' (Hutchinson ct al. as for other anthropologists since. c. In their experience we can perhaps sec further evidence of what the other history of photography might identify as the perpetual unravelling of photographic authority. which has come to symbolize a start of a new.23 Rivers's own photographs strive for a documentary functionalism. photography had brought about little change in depictions of the Todas and in his publication of 1906 we can see clearly his faltering attempts to define all anthropological photography capable of representing the Todas without acsthcticization. this volume). or Bltu: Mountains of Coinibatoor ill tlic Southern Pel/illsula (~f India by Captain James Harkness. Such early representations. In 1832 Harkness illustrated his A Description oj a Singular Aborioina! Race Inhabitinc the Summit c~f the Neilgherry Hills with a frontispiece depicting a Toda group in 'a manner suggestive of a Jewish patriarchal family' (Rooksby 1971: 113) and concl uded that the traveller will be left wondering 'WIIO CAN TI-IEY BE?' (plate 52). 'A Tuda family. 1832. At every point Rivers's attempt to present the Todas as structured by 'the practical necessities of their daily life' (1906:26) is subverted by Wiele and Klein's image?.H. The earlier texts play the role of the 'mere travellers' or 'casual observers' which. were likewise the subject of a massive photo- 84 Introductory Essays . How. in which they arc once again dignified Roman senators with a marked 'grand air' (see Rivers 1906: plates 1-2). with one arm and thigh covered. in other words. as John Falconer has pointed out (1984). give ample substance to complaints of the time concerning the 'Europeanization' of non-Western peoples in prephotographic media. For a time it was suggested that they might be one of the lost tribes of Israel.1900:188). The Todas. University of Oxford) anthropology struggled to define itself We can see here Jean La Fontaine's science of thc 'not-something' struggling into life.

(Seligman 1911 :vii) Seligman's indexical exposure to the Vcddas during fieldwork had allowed him to see behind the earlier iconic and symbolic 'truths' of travellers (the Vcddas had 'looked like'.. Christopher PillllCY 85 . WIIO. Thus Seligman's image of Hcncbedda and ilingoda (Plate 53) has an affinity with a large albumen print (Plate 54) from the 18805 produced by W. where they appear clad ollly in the traditional scanty Vedda garment. because some of his photographs are acknowledged to be 'false'. 24 'This was doubly necessary because formally many of Seligman's 'true' photographs 'look like' the products of early commercial studios. L.. Retouching was a routine procedure in publishing at this time and Seligman explains that poor light in the 'depth of the jungle' necessitated underexposure in spite of the use of rapid plates (Seligman 1911 :viii). Part of Seligman's strategy here is certainly the demarcation of an area of anthropological truth from an area of para-ethnographic deception by means of a strategic retreat in which. Seligman's fieldwork. when Hot 011 show they dress Ilcry much a5 the Ile(~lzhollrillg peasant Sinhalese. p they are commonly [etched to be interviewed by travellers at the nearest rest house. Skeen. Scowcn.. and 'said they were' huntergatherers). revealed that: With all my ej]iJYts I was able to meet onlv [our [amities. This work from studios such as W. whereas. [ believe had never practised cultivation . 'Bcndiagalge Vcddas of Hcncbedda group' by C. however.G.H. and hear oftwo more.' (RA! 4(25) detail of which is reproduced in Seligman (1911: plate III) as 'Group of graphic output. PHitc and the Colombo Apothecaries Company stereotyped them as the 'wild men' of Ceylon.53.. Seligman. and Bingoda. Having thus discovered that surface effect could be deceptive.H. The photographs suggested that they spent all of their time in the jungle clutching hunting weapons. Seligman advised his readers that the images had been 'more or less faked' and lest anyone confuse them with real photographs they are all marked with an asterisk at the end of the caption (sec for example the series of dances. Seligman is then faced with a problem in his use of a series of photographic illustrations on which clarificatory details have been painted.L. [the Danioala who practised cultivation had J assumed the role (~f rojessiona! primitive IIICII . the majority are deemed to be 'true'. plates XXVI-LIV).

for it signals a general retroversion by photography towards other orders of the sign.. By way of a conclusion.. The privileged nature of the anthropological representation is by no means clear here (or indeed anywhere). a man pulling a snapshot from his wallet and sayill. lct us examine.. J list as Leslie Woodhead 'explains' his photograph of the Mursi watching part of a Disappearing World film about themselves by reference to a painting by Magrittc.I .{?.2S so the truth of photographs of tell appears to be 'anchored'.' Albumen print by W. in Barthcs' term. c. This validation of the indexical photograph by the merely sym bolic vagaries of language. In the necessary process of 'defining itself by contrast to adjacent and antecedent discourses' (Pratt 1986:27) the quixotic God of Truth in anthropological photography demanded the sacrifice of victims whose death is marked by an asterisk (Pinney 1990). (RAI5118) Skeen and Co. (1982:86) We might note at this stage that nothing appears more natural than that this statement of the obvious should require to be spoken. Sekula's observation that: . Both show a group in a forest setting carrying bows and axes and looking directly at the camera. 'Group of Vcddahs. a fact testified to by the dog's owner in the spoken caption 'This is my dog'. cited by Baker 1985:170).54. to a sym bolic textual 26 sign which acts as a 'counter-taboo' (Barthcs 1971 :43.1880. for the third and final time.L. Skccn and Co. 'This is Illy doo'.H. if I! I Nothing could be more natural than . the triumph of 'mere hearsay' over the clarity of vision. bears closer scrutiny. The act of exposing the film's emulsion to the light bounced off objects suddenly looks less important as the 'motivated' visual 'j I 86 Introductory Essays . The tenets of the first history of photography do not lead us to expect that such a high price would be necessary.

but signifying force is largely the consequence ofa horizontal narrative contextualizing plane. Thus the illustration of Kajji chiefs (Plate 55) from Major A. whereas along the plane of the syntagm a metonymic contiguity prevails (Burgin 1982:56). which Eco called (with reference to cinematic narrative) 'syntagmatic concatenation imbued with argumentative capacity' (1982:38).80 a month.f" The syntagm is constituted by a principle of addition. what Barthes called the 'certainty of the word'. a chain of meaning into which words are sequentially and contextually locked. my argument does not depend on any knowledge of any contextualizations other than the contiguity of visual images). is how we managed to constitute such a question as a possibility in the first place.OlUlil Ji. that is why all news photographs are captioned. words determine a single certainty .. Thus according to Bryson it would be 'simply wrong to identify . cited by Baker ibid. denotation in which we could commonly agree Oil anything other than the crude distinction between Kajji Chiefs and the 'Titanic. once we become aware that 'Kajji Chiefs' is a subset of a discourse which also includes Kagoro women. for our purpose here.N. when we view the image of the Kajji chiefs in the context of another image from the same work which shows (Plate 58) seven almost naked women from behind (it is captioned 'Kagoro women ofTuku Tozo". They support an average of 4 persons each Oil $22. The mati on the left is a dwar]: his beard is tied with grass.(?ht? {f we fi. All Oil WPA. for metaphorical association. All displaced tenant what we gotta whip?" (photograph by Dorothea Lange. the effect of language. can also be achieved through insertion within a language composed purely of images. 'Kajji Chiefs. Many photographs have the potential to enter primarily into paradigmatic (metaphorical and vertical) relationship with other photographs. a picture of the Titanic leaving the dock on its inaugural voyage.. 104) 2.1t always "aoainst the Govcrnnient ".. none able to vote because of Texas tax poll (sic). But might we not sa y the same thing of Plate 56? Whatever our personal and private responses to these photographs (and it is part of this argument that it is these responses which matter).(. such as in the two Samoan photographs from the Walker Collcctiorr'" (Plate 57).gonna get there? What we gonna do? Who we . which is prolonged and hangs down upon his chest. The next man was a Fcry troublesome person bei/l. But.. We might say that part of the signification of the illustration from The Tailed Headhunters of Nigeria is of five subjected individuals who stand at the antipodes of the civilizational order which Major Tremearne is dedicated to upholding. Adopting Saussurc's distinction between a lateral plane oflanguage. It is 110t. the svntaom. that the photograph is caught in a nexus of oppressive vision whose function is the disciplining of these five individuals. This paradigmatic axis allows.. as Jakobsen noted.. the neiohbourino tribe to the south. Barthcs might have argued. from her American Exodus.lt0tllll1 go? How we . particularly photographic images. seem to be limited at a very basic level by what Barthcs called their 'denotative' message. Likewise.j. it is difficult to define any area of. All native Americans. Photography.sign starts to take second place to the arbitrary of language: identity The image freezes an endless number of possibilities. how at an Christopher Pinney 87 . it immediately becomes inconceivable that such an image could function as positive propaganda of the Dorothea Lange 'North Texas . "Where we . 1939 cited in Jeffrey 1981:166)27 However.). we might perhaps all agree that our interpretation of these two images changes when we read them with the assistance of their captions: 1. whereas the paradigmatic plane operates on the principle of substitution.) The possibilities of misspelling and misreading images. Thu~. denoted nature . for instance.r. the paradigm. The only question that arises from the retro-perspcctive of our knowledge of the visual language of Tailed Headhunters . in Foucauldian fashion. through its placement within a visual syntagmatic chain. This was probably copied from Kagoma. but at this point at least. The oldest is 33. Let us develop this argument further. We might hypothesize. Sunday Morning June 1937. It was the faith in such a denotative power of photography which underpinned the views outlined in the first history of photography. as the 'pencil of nature'. and a vertical plane.. 'North Texas. Note the cowrie strings of the Ioin-coocring of the r~'Sht-halld man' (Trernearnc 1912:plate opp. Writers such as Bryson and Bertin have argued that there is a certain level of visual primacy which enables us to identify with certainty particular forms of images. Bertin has argued that under certain 'rnonoscmic' systems (such as maps) 'all the participants agree on certain meanings and agree to discuss them no further' (Baker ibid. denotatively and indisputably a photograph of five people. a Pietd as an old woman with a corpse' (Baker 1985:1(4).. (Barthcs 1983: 13. ' kind. Trcmcarnc's 1<)12 work The Tailed Headhunters of Nigeria is. or context for.along the straight line of transcription from nature to culture (from referent to photograph) there was no room for connotation. enables us to see better how this opcrares.

1()4.)) with the caption' All displaced tenant farmers.' (Courtesy of the Library of 88 . 5(>. SUIHLiy llIorning..~jor A .J. Trcmcarnc's rill' Tailed Headhunters or Niocria. 'North Texas. Congress) by I )orothea Lange.55. June 1')37.)3. Published in Lange and The oldest 33.' Photograph Taylor (1 . 1')12: opp. p. N. 'Kojji chiefs' frorn M.

1912: oppo po 92 (see to plate 55)0 'Kagoro Tozu' Women of caption 89 . 35426) Tuk u 580 from Trcmcaruc.N. force of Samoans during the war' (sic). (RAI 35427. 'Heaps of Coconuts'. c18800 'Lieut. Gaunt Ic.570 Single sheet with two photographs of Samoa.

Rather. This is one reason wh y the first history of photography outlined in this essay has been so powerfully persuasive. Construction and deconstruction are breached /broached there. is in the process of enlargement towards the lcxis of film. the same image of a young Jewish boy alighting from a train at Auschwitz can serve as both a certification of the power of the Reich (when enmeshed in the language of the Nazi archive). The prospects of such heterotopic couplings are 90 Introductory Essays . repeated. incapahle oj appearing to itself except in its own disappearance. There are several collections of still photographs in the l\AI Collection which seem to prefigure and yearn after the status of moving film. of establishing the context of the context. JO Film thus incarnated plays Malinowski to still photography's Frazer (Strathern 1987). oj a self-presence which has nelJer been givell but only dreamed oj and always already split. its con-text (cf. Photography is now being rephotographed. There is a crack there. or as an injunction to counter bigotry and its genocidal impulses (when used in a contemporary anti-racist campaign) it becomes everything and yet nothing.i" since they signify nothing but: The loss oj what has never taken place. here produces a momentary closure of finitude of meaning. First. It is of course precisely the context and closure provided by syntagmatic concatenation which is the great rationale for ethnographic film as opposed to the truncated and castrated 'fetish' of the photographic 'look'. having filled in the blank space of the photograph.earlier stage we had hypothesized a similarity between Trcmcarnc's and Lange's intentions. Faris. the same closure of meaning which the first history of photography had led us to suppose was in the very substance of the single image or negative as a thing-in-itself. It is not a paradox that anthropology is discovering the 'worth'. like the creative absence of light in the photographer's darkroom. it reveals the function of the archive (for instance. which is not straight or continuous or regular . if even syntagmatic concatenation is ultimately no guarantee of a fixed contextual meaning since context is J question of training. less transgrcssablc. If this is so. Harkness 1983:4). which is the time in which we always read photographs. of its archival images precisely at the moment that these images are decaying into invisibility. Imprisoned within the archival grid. images (thanks to the teleology of the archive) become self-evident things-in-themselves. I have suggested that once these objects . like that of anthropology. V. the syntagm of the syntagm. forces. It appears that all we can ever say is that the what is of photography. lies in its what it is not. The language of the archive. Portman made long narrative sequences of bow and adze manufacture among the Andaman Islanders. the appealing possibility of completely usurping any attempt to achieve this suggests itself the heterotopia suggested by Foucault in which units of reading set free by a radical rupture of 'traditional' context align themselves in surreal disjunctions (cf. or 'lexis'.are brought to the surface it is we as viewers and interpreters who determine their meaning.photographs. the 'information value'. it suggests two very useful conclusions. Perhaps it was the subliminal acceptance of the indeterminacy of the image that inclined Victorians to photograph in prisons where photographic identity was buttressed by other. as seems possible.. through a study of the significatory frameworks whereby these images are endowed and closed with meaning (Tagg 1988). The line of disinieoration.. Thus M. the honest statement of their own insignificance. erases the undecidable nature of the image. the 'syntagmatic concatenation'. (Dcrrida 1976:112) If. but rather the manner in which dark recesses of photographic archives are coming under scrutiny and images of an imagined past brought from darkness to light by projects which stress the recuperative and forensic possibilities (medical metaphors again!) of this excavated material culture of the colonial and imperial heritage of anthropology. and Seligman himself in his long sequences of curing rituals among the Vcddas seems to achieve a cinematic syntagmatic encompassment. arc vital metaphors which introduce a plane of presence distinct from the surface fractures of the present. By this I refer not chiefly to the conservation process by which the decaying archival image is reproduced for another generation. (Derrida 1987:133) Secondly. The proliferation of images. In Christian Mctz's terminology (taken from the Danish scmiotician Hjelrnslcv) the photographic unit of reading. then the study of anthropology and the camera is transformed from a relationship of simple production in which the camera is a mere 'tool' or 'conduit'V to the study of the determination (at a first and provisional level) of that 'what is' (the 'what it is not') which lies in the photograph. images . an archive such as that called 'The Royal Anthropological Institute Photographic Collection') as concerned with the disciplining of its images within a language-based political view of the world and its peoples. But such indeterminacy need not be the cause of dejection. Darkness and depth. this volume). Hobart 1985:41. The archive functions as a vast linguistic grid enmeshing otherwise volatile images within what it hopes is a structuring certainty.

photo-grammar. inasmuch as it stresses certainty within specific contexts. See also Philippe Dubois's de-· scription of photogra ph y as 'thanatographv' (Metz 1985:83). The argument developed in this paper under the heading or the 'second history of photography' has many points of similarity with the heavily Foucauldian approach of John Tagg. The parallel first histories of photography and anthropology have been easy to demonstrate. Peter Hoffenberg. there was what has been called a 'culture of need'.encouraging and stem from the increasing conjunction of anthropology and photography as their old certainties and former histories collapse. Timothy (1984:23). However. a possibility of a creative convergence. What is also emerging is that both anthropology and photography arc simultaneously discovering their own uncertainty and im- possibility. James C. 3 4 5 As Martin Jay notes: 'whether we focus 011 the "mirror of nature" metaphor in philosophy with Richard Rorty or em phasizc the prevalence of surveillance with Michel Foucault or bemoan the society of the spectacle with Guy Debord. Faris. $0 photography is in the process of discovering that it is a language-based photo-logy or. See below. we confront again and again the ubiquity of vision as the master sense of the modern era' (1988:3). in including a certain reading of it here in the 'first history' of photography. As the traces of their trajectories approach each other. NOTES Tyler argues that the hegemony of 'things' 'entails the hegemony of the visual as a means of knowing/thinking. to which it owes a great deal. Just as anthropology is discovering its status as allthyopo-.~raphy. we arc also justified. pages 26-7 Ior explication of these terms. I believe. more correctly. The idiocies arc wholly my OWIl. He argues Christopher Pinney 91 . 6 7 Rather.:13 a rhetorical 'visualism' (Fabian 1983:106). See Pinney (this volume) for a development of such an argument with reference to the photographing of India. there is. Seeing is a privileged sensorial mode and key metaphor in (Standard Average European language and thought). David Tomas. Chris Wright. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 2 I have filched acknowledged and unacknowledged ideas in this essay from Martin Jay. Tagg (1988) argues that photography was scmioticall y more or less neutral and was endowed with power because it suited the needs of all expanding state. for the first time. He proceeds to reverse some habitual privilegings in order to demonstrate this tacit prioritization ('I just wanted to taste what it looked like'). These dates do not merely record the moment of intervention by an accidental and unpredictable socially uncontextualizcd 'discovery' .

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