Alex Jansen

Alex Jansen’s work takes a sensitive look at the landscapes around us as archaeologists. To me Alex’s work (and I am especially thinking of the work he showed at the TAG 2011 show) evokes something of that feeling of being a stranger in a place that you know intimately. As archaeologists we often find ourselves in a particular place that we study in great detail, and yet the modern life of that place remains in some way distant to us. The images are visually sparse with few clues to the narrative. They are also depopulated, the archaeologist doesn’t appear in person and yet the work itself is fundamentally concerned with the human experience and emotion of archaeology.

This is Alex’s statement about his work:

In a move away from photography serving as a mere form of documentation in archaeology, my work seeks to demonstrate that photography can indeed actively capture and depict the archaeological site. My work aims to actively capture the motion, movement, and moments that exist within the archaeological site and that function as part of excavations. My work seeks to reconstruct the archaeological site through capturing the excavation methods and experiences not commonly associated with fieldwork, and looks to create a sensory experience of the site and excavations for the viewer. It is by looking at these more subtle aspects of archaeology that my photographs work to build a sense of continuity and cohesion within the larger framework of the site and in excavations.

My work demonstrates that photographs can work to create a visual and aesthetic experience of the site for the viewer. I often also employ a combination of close-up and broad, contextual shots to create a visual experience in which the viewer sees both the intimate and more far away aspects of excavation. The viewer is able to see the activity and methods employed in the immediate vicinity as well as its relation to the broader scope of fieldwork. The viewer is able to put together a clear picture of the archaeological site and the experience of fieldwork.

My work combines and intermingles the more close-up, intimate aspects of excavation with their broader context to show the inherent circularity and motion that exists within the process of archaeological fieldwork. My photography seeks to capture the interrelationship between these processes within the framework of excavation.

This new form of photography demonstrates the medium’s emerging role in capturing both the more subtle and overall nature of archaeological sites, and the ways in which photography can create a phenomenological experience for the viewer. This greater level of accessibility in archaeological photography not only reconstructs the archaeological site, but also extends the experience of the site to a greater audience through the use of sensory means.

Alex Jansen is an archaeologist, anthropologist, and artist. He is most interested in Archaeological Photography, Cultural Heritage and History, Photography and Digital Media in Archaeology, and Modern Ruins. His work was recently shown at the Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) 2011 Annual Meeting at UC Berkeley as part of the session, Opening Dialogs in Archaeological Photography, in which he showed several examples of the ways in which photographs actively work to reconstruct the archaeological site. He will be releasing his first-ever photo book, Circularity and Motion, based on the 2011 Barton Village Site Excavations, in Spring 2012.


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