The incunabula of a sub-discipline: researching early ethnographic photography from Natal, South Africa

This paper presents research on a rare early photograph album from mid 1860s Natal, South Africa, in the Pitt Rivers Museum. It contains around 50 portraits of African subjects, with inscriptions by its compiler, and represents the first few years of studio output in Natal in the new affordable format of cartes-de-visite. Yet there is more than meets the eye in this fascinating album, which also, the paper argues, contains the ethnographic photography of an anthropologically informed border agent named Joshua Walmsley. Many of Walmsley’s images were subsequently published unacknowledged in engraved form by Gustav Fritsch in his widely read 1872 volume Die Eingeborenen Süd-Afrika's. The paper will expand on the historical and photographical contexts for this album, and outline some of the emerging arguments of the research. 

Pitt Rivers Museum Research Seminar in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology, Michaelmas 2022

Online on Teams using this link 

Fridays, 12pm-1.30pm (Weeks 1-8)

Convened by Elizabeth Hallam and Chihab El Khachab