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  • Writer's pictureART HISTORY

Christopher Pinney / Citizens of Photography: Demotic Visual Practices in South Asia

Part of the Sydney Asian Art Series 2022 collection, by The Power Institute

The third lecture in our 2022 Sydney Asian Art Series, exploring new research on the experience of photography in Asian art. This is an online event. You will receive a Zoom link upon registration.


This presentation reports on recent ethnographic field research in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Exploring Ariella Azoulay’s provocation in The Civil Contract of Photography (2008) that the camera offers a form of citizenship in advance of conventional rights, the lecture asks whether demotic (aka ‘vernacular’) practices open a subjunctive “as if”, or even the proleptic. Contra Bourdieu, it is argued, demotic practices point not so much to the past as to a future “beyond”.

Christopher Pinney is Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London. Pinney's research has a strong geographic focus in central India: initial ethnographic research was concerned with village-resident factory workers. Subsequently he researched popular photographic practices and the consumption of Hindu chromolithographs in the same area. His publications combine contemporary ethnography with the historical archaeology of particular media, including his seminal books Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs (1998) and Photos of the Gods: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India (2004). His publications include Photography’s Other Histories (2003, edited with Nicolas Peterson), The Coming of Photography in India (2008), Photography and Anthropology (2011) and the Camera Artisan: Studio Photography from Central India (2013, with Suresh Punjabi). Most recently, he has been leading a collaborative project funded by the European Research Council, titled "Citizens of the Camera: Photography and the Political Imagination".

This event is part of the 2022 Sydney Asian Art Series. Learn more about the series here.

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