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Sean Willcock Negative Histories of Colonial Photography: Encounters with Photographic Processes in the Imperial Field 16.03.2021 6pm

Venue: Online

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This paper considers colonial photography in terms of the processes of preparing, loading, exposing, and fixing glass-plate negatives ‘in the field’. This was how colonial photography was often encountered by those ‘others’ who found themselves sitting for, or witness to, the imperial lens in the mid nineteenth century: as a performance of image-making whose intended final product - the positive – remained absent. Negatives thus have their own histories of spectatorship ‘in the field’ in which photography was apprehended not in terms of the clarity and detail which the Victorians prized about the medium, but through the haziness of latency; and not in terms of static prints captioned according to colonial taxonomies, but as a dynamic process yielding labile images. I ask how paying attention to the inchoate and contingent qualities of the negative might afford new perspectives on the political significance of photography within the colonial encounter.

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