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Photography and Archaeology

Photographs preserve the past, while archaeology unearths what has been preserved. Put together, photography and archaeology bring the past into the present, making its image available for a wide audience. In Photography and Archaeology, Frederick Bohrer examines some of history’s most famous archaeological excavations, as well as lesser-known finds, from the Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Bohrer examines the ways these sites have been represented in photographs and shows how the development of photography in the nineteenth century brought archaeology to the attention of the public.
Uniting the histories of both photography and archaeology, Bohrer explains how what we know of the history of archaeology has been related to how it has been photographically represented and circulated in scholarly papers, personal accounts, scientific archives, museum catalogues, and other formats.  He discusses archaeological examples and images by photographers including Maxime du Camp, Francis Frith, John Beazley Greene, and Ernst Herzfeld, as well as more contemporary photographers such as Aaron Levin, Roger Wood, and Marilyn Bridges. While photography seems to guarantee documentary objectivity, Bohrer argues that it also fundamentally alters the archaeological object, transforming it into a work of art.
Beautifully illustrated with archaeological images, many published here for the first time, Photography and Archaeology will be of interest to anyone captivated by both photography’s and archaeology’s ongoing engagement with the past.

184 pages | 50 color plates, 50 halftones | 7 1/2 x 8 2/3 | © 2011


Art: Photography

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“This brief but unique examination of the relationship between photography and archaeology addresses the many interesting facets of their long, intertwined history.”


“This is a beautiful book containing many gorgeous photographs and it is a delight to handle. It covers a broad range of material and will widen the horizons of readers familiar with standard histories of photography. The reader will be encouraged to dig more deeply into the archaeological publications of the past to discover more photographic delights.”

Cassone Art Review

“Photography’s unreliability may seem like a well-worn subject. Yet the long history of archaeology’s attempts to bend photography to its will allows this book—part of Reaktion’s excellently-produced Exposures series—to unearth numerous photographic curiosities and provide some fresh insights into an issue on which you might have thought there was little new to say.”


Photography and Archaeology is another worthy entry in Reaktion Books’ series on photography and history, culture, and social sciences. . . . [It] surveys the history of photography in archaeology, raising pointed questions about the past and our capacity to ‘see,’ ‘know,’ and represent it.”

Anthropology Review Database

“This book explores the close ties between the rise of scientific archaeology and the spread of the new medium of photography from the mid-nineteenth century through to the present day. While many of us are aware that early archaeology’s popularity was facilitated largely by means of photographic images, Bohrer demonstrates that, in their quest for the objective documentation of the past, archaeologists and scholars of antiquity were also directly involved in the invention of the new photographic technologies. This beautifully illustrated book will be welcomed by archaeologists and photography historians alike.”

Zainab Bahrani, Columbia University

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Image as Object
One: Science, or Truth
Two: Travel, or Presence
Three: Meaning, or the Archive
Four: Art, or Reframing

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

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