Sara Perry

This project is not just about photographers, we also aim to document the critical theory that is developing both in response to and as a source for new directions in archaeological photography.

Sara Perry’s work on the use of imagery in archaeology is an inspiration for this project itself. We aim to use this project as a way to respond to the questions she is raising, to try to break conventional way imagery is often used in archaeological publications and to demonstrate in what practical ways this might be done.

Sara’s work is about challenging the way images are used, reprinted and recycled often uncritically in archaeological media. Her work also touches on the ways in which digital media and analogue media interact and the way in which new media fuse and blend traditional media. Read her full abstract below:

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The apparently commonsense notion that digital media are refiguring the possibilities of visuality in archaeology obscures the fact that diverse graphic interventions have always been bound into disciplinary transformations. The novelty of the digital is arguably flattening our sense of the depth of visual innovation, leaving archaeology’s complex genealogy of pictorial experimentation largely unnoticed. New media tend to be the yields of—or fusions between—older forms of media and older traditions of manipulating such forms; they speak of successive layers of materials and people etching onto and amplifying one another. To forget about this interaction is to falsely approach digital photography, for instance, as a singular entity pushing the limits of visuality on its own, as though detached from any lineage of graphic/material practice.

The archival record hints at the cyborg nature of historical visual engagements in archaeology, wherein mechanical and human articulations are combined in ways that presage current modes of digitality. Graffitied and tagged, cut, pasted and re-articulated, re-photographed, printed and multiply-circulated, these older visual media manifest the very intertextual, interactive, collaborative and citational forms now so commonly attributed to modern digital environments alone. They, like the digital photograph, are marked by interference and composite constitution and, as such, testify to the inherent multimodality of visual traditions. They, like this volume itself, speak to the impossibility of isolating or privileging one medium above another—or, as per herein, of even conveying the potentials of (digital) photography without mobilising manifold analog forms and, ultimately, materialising as printed pages in a book. Graphic multimedia, from such a viewpoint, are neither novel nor unparalleled, but are at once archaeology’s history and future.

Sara Perry is a PhD student in archaeology at the University of Southampton. She completed her undergraduate and Master’s degrees at the University of Victoria (Victoria, BC, Canada) and has since presented these studies in articles and at conferences in Canada, the US, Australia and Europe. Her research interests centre on archaeological visual representation, visual methodologies, the history of science, archaeological theory and practice, and critical pedagogy. Her PhD thesis probes the epistemological significance of imagery in the professionalisation of archaeology.

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