The not so hidden power of the archive: exploring photography collections with the PRM research team

Saturday 22 April, 12.30 - 15.00 

Black and white image of man wading in lake

Drop into the galleries to see, discuss and question the museum's photographic archives. Photo Oxford Festival's theme, The Hidden Power of the Archive, directly engages with the research efforts of the Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM) to reframe and recontextualise its colonial archives. The researchers and artists invited to take part have been chosen to engage the public in uncovering, activating and pulling back the curtain on 'hidden' photographic collections. Christopher Morton, curator of photographs at the PRM, alongside two PhD researchers, Anna Sephton and Hannah Eastman, will be in the galleries with pop-up exhibitions to showcase their current research on photographic archives and exhibitions. Artwork by Thomas Nicolaou, which made use of archival photography, will also be on display.

Anna Sephton will be presenting on her PhD research on Irene 'Freddie' Heseltine's photographic collection, which tells an archival story of chance, hidden layers and the visible hand of the researcher. Made in South Africa in the mid-1930s, these photographs are a visual collision of familiar colonial tropes and the unexpected core of the collection: the magnetic gaze between Freddie and her life partner, Petronella 'Nell' Van Heerden. The radical, queer imaginings integral to their interactions with landscape, politics and one another relied also on a limiting of that imagination to their own White bodies, at a time when the legislative, social and material structures of apartheid were being cemented. Through these images, Anna will discuss the implications of the relational tension around whose aspirations were visualised, or what futures of release were imagined or promised.

Hannah Eastham will be presenting on her PhD topic The Oyster Archive, a selection of photographs relating to pearl culturing and fishing industries from Japan at the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Christopher Morton will be showing a number of original ambrotype photographs by American photographer Shane Balkowitsch that were not included in the current exhibition Collaborating with the Past, and be available to talk to people about how the display came together.


Part of Photo Oxford Festival 2023

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