Look at Me More: Cypriot Studio Photographic Portraits
(Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture / University of Leicester)
Paper short abstract:
The paper introduces the studio photographic portrait as a genre and object that forms an underestimated aspect of Cypriot visual culture and brings to the forefront the affective aspect of its use in the aftermath of colonialism and modernity.
Paper long abstract:
This paper examines Cypriot studio photographic portraits as an unappreciated and understudied aspect of visual culture on the island. Contrary to their current reception within the narrow and exclusive framework of cultural heritage found in official and popular discourse, whereby nationalist aesthetics and politics set the agenda, I seek to articulate an alternative approach to their study within the field of critical heritage. I also argue that when these objects are put to work within the social they accomplish complicated tasks related to affect, not only to posterity. In doing so, I employ Mitchell's methodological tool of the 'desire of images' (2005), aiming to draw attention to other analytical directions concerning this photographic genre, namely consumability, tactility and affect. Using ethnographical and visual sources the paper explores the visual surface along with the social life of Cypriot studio photographic portraits. It identifies recurring aspects of their social trajectories which provide insights to the modes through which the interlocutors' bodily experience and meaning-making processes transverse the boundaries of representation into the realm of managing emotional tensions. These tensions emerge in the aftermath of colonialism and the photographic practice it ensued, as well as the encounter and interaction of Cyprus with modernity between the 1940s and the 1980s and the transition to statehood. I argue that studio shootings and the resulting photographic portraits constitute highly-structured cultural attempts to cope with these unravelling emotional upheavals on the social and personal level.
Critical Heritage and Photography