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Re-thinking photography in anthropological research: Reflections based on visual encounters in Tigray

Open lecture with Thera Mjaaland (photographer and social anthropologist).

In spite of the realism produced, photographic representations - still images and film alike - cannot easily be pinned down in terms of ‘truth'. From an epistemological perspective, the unease with the visual in anthropology can be explained by the ambiguity photographic representations generate when involving both realistic description and unruly expressiveness. The question that will be addressed in this presentation is, therefore, what role photography can play in anthropological research if this inherent ambiguity is approached as the most potent aspect of photographic representation? With my initial background as an art photographer, and based on the methodological use of photography having informed my anthropological work in Tigray, Ethiopia, the re-thinking of still photography in anthropological research that I suggest, moves photographic representation beyond its common role as evidential documentation.