Intimacy and the Participatory ‘Plongée’: Henri Gaden, West Africa, 1894-1939

16 November 2016, 14:30 - 16:30

Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Professor Roy Dilley  (University of St Andrews)
Intimacy and the Participatory 'Plongée': Henri Gaden, Photographer of West Africa, 1894-1939.

 

This paper aims to sketch out the development of Henri Gaden's photography in West Africa, an activity he began in 1894 when first posted to the region as a military officer in colonial service. A self-trained amateur, Gaden initially travelled out to West Africa with a view to recording a private collection of visual mementos of his experiences in the colonies. Over the course of five colonial missions to various parts of the region - from Senegal to Chad - he used photography in numerous ways: first, to indulge his own exotic and ethnographic interests; second, to aid military manoeuvres and mapping in what might be called 'a carto-photographic' method. Furthermore, he went on to capture moments of intimacy in his relations with local figures and exploited camera angles that drew the viewer as virtual participant into the subject of his photos. The camera became for him not only a tool of colonial objectification but was also an avenue for mutual engagement with local subjects. This paper explores, moreover, the idea of the unseen in the framing of the photographic image; in particular, the absence of a presence of the photographer who took the shot. Also unseen are the social relationships (sometimes fleeting, sometimes more enduring) that constitute the photographic encounter captured on by the camera.

Roy Dilley is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews. He has published extensively on the anthropology of West Africa over a period of 30 years or more, and has recently developed a new set of research interests in French colonial history in West Africa, one of the results of which is his recent biography of a French colonial officer, Henri Gaden, published by Brill (Leiden) in 2014 and in French translation by Harmattan (Paris) in 2015. He is currently preparing a volume on Gaden's photographic collection in collaboration with the Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer, France. He has also held, for example: an associated Research Fellowship, CNRS ERASME, Paris; the Sir E. E. Evans-Pritchard Lectureship, Oxford; Visiting Research Fellowship, All Souls College, Oxford; Visiting Professorial Research Fellowship, University of Konstanz

 

Open to all.  No registration required
Part of Photography between Invisibility and the Unseen Research Group Seminar Series

Administrative assistance: gradfac@crassh.cam.ac.uk