Accepted Paper:

"Through Arctic Siberia With My Camera" - Maria Czaplicka and her photographs of her Yenisei Expedition, 1914-1915  


Grazyna Kubica-Heller (Jagiellonian University)

Paper short abstract:

The collection of fieldwork photographs made by Maria Czaplicka can be seen as telling us various "stories": of scientific exploration, of Evenki and other Siberian individuals and their life, of artistic images, of the photographer's attempts to improve her imperfect results.

Paper long abstract:

I would like to recall a Polish-British anthropologist, Maria Czaplicka (1884-1921), a Siberian fieldworker and the author of a book, My Siberian Year, which can be seen as one of the first reflexive and literary accounts of ethnographic fieldwork. She took a few hundred photographs during her expedition. Most of them represented people, members of various aboriginal "races". They were to serve "scientific" purpose to illustrate "human types" together with anthropometric measurements. The collection is a good example of the scientific discourse of the time, but also a popular way to represent others on postcards and in newspapers.

I have consulted the collection with various experts (including an Evenk one) what enabled me to find various "stories" photographs can tell us. Another interesting point is connected with technical imperfection of Czaplicka's photographs. These faulty images are still seen as interesting and engaging by representatives of indigenous populations or artistic vievers. It is also worth exploring how the photographer herself tried to overcome her "faults" by retouching and other modifications.

In my explorations I am following theoretical perspectives of Edwards, Morton and Pinney.

Panel P05
Reviving the archives as pictorial histories