Christopher Pinney

Christopher Pinney is Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London. His chief interests are in commercial print culture and photography in South Asia and popular Hinduism in central India. He is currently leading the European Research Council funded project “Photodemos/Citizens of Photography.” His publications combine contemporary ethnography with the historical archaeology of particular media (see eg. Camera Indica and Photos of the Gods). The Coming of Photography in India, based on the Panizzi Lectures, was published by the British Library in October 2008. Other recent work includes Photography and Anthropology (Reaktion, 2011) and (together with Suresh Punjabi) Artisan Camera: Studio Photography from Central India (Tara, 2013).

Studios seem to be transformative places where people could act out new forms of identity in advance of society.

The conversation between the two researches revolves around the central question of backdrop, its meaning, position inside the studio practices. It delves into the performative aspect of backdrop photography putting it in proximity with theatre and cinema, question its nature as a prop in the process of staging an image. The question seem to be how can photography as a general practice can be understood and its theoretical notions enriched through research into rich backdrop practices (in case of Pinney and Fevero mostly in India and surrounding region) and how can we explain those practice via the established theoretical cannons. The conversation negotiates through main notions of authors such as Michael Fried, John Tagg, illuminates on usually neglected nuances of Barthes Camera Lucida to finally elaborate the profilmic nature of backdrop photography and its representative role of the society in which it functions. What kind of politics of space does it represent; is it transformative or representative? What is the meaning of the notion of the prophetic nature of photography?

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