Paper short abstract:
This paper uses a case-study to discuss the politics of domestic and amateur photography in South Asia, which extends from the production of images in and of households in the twentieth century, to current artistic, institutional, digital and entrepreneurial investments in the 'intimate archive'.
Paper long abstract:
In 1948, Haleema Hashim, a young woman in the south Indian port city of Cochin, began taking photographs. Over the next three decades, she produced thousands of warm and striking images of occasionality and the everyday in her joint-family household of Kutchi Memons, Sunni Muslim migrants who through marriage and business formed a close-knit community. In 2014, they were collected and digitized by her great-grandson, and appeared on the Indian Memory Project website and at the Kochi Muziris Biennale. Drawing appreciation for 'making visible' an 'intimate' history that especially foregrounds women's lives, but also objections amongst relatives concerned with the implications of such visibility, they emphasize the ambitions and anxieties at play in the ongoing historiographical, artistic and entrepreneurial turn to the 'intimate (photographic) archive'.
This paper argues that Haleema Hashim's oeuvre urges us to reflect on the politics of domestic and amateur photography in South Asia. Ariella Azoulay's conceptualization of the photographic encounter which takes place between the photographer, camera, photographed subject and spectator is thus directed towards the spaces and relations of the (post)colonial household and its archives. Rather than a 'civil' contract, I propose that the negotiation of this photography, from its production to its transmission, dispersal and/or appropriation, is an 'intimate' contract, where intimacy is the constant and contingent blurring of the 'public' and 'private', of the formal and the informal. The intimacy that courses through Haleema Hashim's photographs and structures their afterlives becomes a way of critically engaging with an otherwise elided photographic encounter.
Participation and Guardianship: On the Ownership of Images in Movement