‘Critique’ and the Researching of Historical Photographs

My paper examines the question of critique in relation to the study of photographs from the colonial period. Throughout my career as a cultural historian, it has always been my aim to produce analyses that delve beyond the narrow scope of just the image itself by investigating both the local and global contexts of production and consumption, content and style, together with what we know of the intentions of the photographers and the techniques and methods they used. This has often meant thinking about the politics behind my own critical practice, especially in terms of selection and interpretation of images from the archive. Recently, I have turned my attention to a very particular body of photographs from the Asia-Pacific region, one that has not been the subject of much critical investigation because focused on women who worked in a professional, rather than an amateur, capacity. It is a study which has proved challenging to execute, requiring as it does a sensitivity to the kinds of professional problems faced by women photographers in the nineteenth century, as well as to the ways in which they approached indigenous subjects. By focusing on the works of two women photographers, one from Canada and one from Aotearoa/New Zealand, I will demonstrate the mechanics of my practice, but I will also highlight the problems I have experienced in my attempts to narrativise what I see as their achievements.  

Anne Maxwell is Associate Professor in the English and Theatre Program at The University of Melbourne. In addition to publishing a large number of essays on colonial and postcolonial literature, she has published three monographs on colonial photography. Her fourth book, The Complete Craze: Women’s Photography and Colonial Modernity, is scheduled for publication in 2017.

Friday 13 May 2016
Boardroom (Room 601), Advanced Engineering Building (Building 49), UQ St Lucia

This event is one of a series of seminars debating the merits and consequences of a return to ‘critique’ in aesthetic criticism. The next seminar in the series is:

17 June 2016
What are the Politics of Contemporary Art?
Dr Paolo Magagnoli (The University of Queensland)

All welcome. RSVP uqche@uq.edu.au 


Boardroom (Room 601), Advanced Engineering Building (Building 49), UQ St Lucia