Changing Archaeological Conferences 2/2

Photo by Connor Rowe.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I took part in Heather Law’s Opening Dialogs in Archaeological Photography session on Saturday. Sadly it overlapped with my graffiti session, so I missed the bulk of the presentations. The gallery space was great though, and the session was archaeologists/photographers presenting their work while the small crowd followed around the room.

Ruth Tringham, presenting her photos at TAG2011. Photo by Allison Barden.

The format was very informal, with many of the presenters speaking extemporaneously. It was much more of a conversation than a critique, which was probably for the best. Most of the photos were not obviously archaeological, with scales or excavators working, but were more phenomenological. After typing a lot of words on this topic, I’ve come to the conclusion that archaeological photos need to do something archaeological. A pretty good rule of thumb: I have to be able to use something in the photograph to reconstruct (either verbally or virtually) the archaeological site.

Me, photo by Allison Barden.

I did something a little different with my photographs. As I’ve previously discussed, I put them into an album and set them up with a small, salvaged table and a lamp. I wanted to bring the viewer in, to have them engage with the physicality of the photographs in the album, in part to highlight the analog/digital disruption that was the primary theme of my work. I spoke about my creative process and got a few good questions from the gathered crowd. Adrian Praetzellis was particularly touched that I left one of the photos of the young family in the album, captioned appropriately. I’ll post a more in-depth discussion of the actual piece in a subsequent post.

Everyone that I heard from in the photo show really enjoyed it. Heather seems eager to do it again, and it would be nice to bring it outside of TAG to a larger audience.

The lessons from this session were more subtle – on the surface it could be compared to presenting a poster in a more structured setting. What distinguishes a photo session is the curatorial process of selecting, captioning, printing, and arranging photographs and the accompanying friction between artistic voice and archaeological vision. I also appreciated the directed discussion and greater interaction between presenter and audience.

USA TAG is in SUNY Buffalo next year and I hope to see more experimentation in the classic “conference” format.

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

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