CHTE 323

Photography and Archaeology: The Art of Documentation

Major Discipline(s):
Cultural Heritage
Semester(s):
Spring Semester
Instructor(s):
Related Discipline: Art cross listed with ARTH 323

The renowned Greek archaeological photographer, Socratis Mavrommatis, observed that when we look at photographs of antiquity we often privilege the subject over the photograph. In fact, one of the unwritten tenets of archaeological photography is that of impartial depiction. This effectively implies that the "hand" of the photographer should be invisible. But how much can this actually be made invisible? Perhaps we have just desensitized our vision when examining archaeological photographs by only considering the subject and not the photograph delivering it? In recent years the photograph itself has become the subject of study thus transforming it from being a mere document to a cultural object in its own right.

The study of the relationship between photography and archaeology requires a multi-disciplinary approach. We must be practitioners and theorists, researchers and analysts, approaching archaeological photography from a variety of angles. Through lectures and viewing the work of major figures in the field you will become familiar with the development of the medium alongside the discipline of archaeology. Through site visits and hands-on experience with specialized equipment you will gain insight into the mechanics of photography and how it shapes vision. Through examining case-studies and conducting your own research you will discover how photography has often held up a mirror to the greater cultural contexts of archaeology.

Greece is an ideal setting for this course: photography and scientific archaeology were born at roughly the same time and the histories of both disciplines are intricately connected. To explore this relationship, the class will visit archaeological sites, object storage facilities, photographic archives and museums. Students will also be required to conduct visits in their own time to complete a photography based research project.