The 2006 Panizzi lectures – The coming of photography in India a series of three lectures by Christopher Pinney (UCL)

6.15pm at the Conference Centre, British Library Free admission by ticket from the British Library Box Office [email protected]

Alluding to Febvre and Martin’s L’Apparition du livre, these lectures develop a “technomaterialist” approach to the practice of photography in India between 1840-1930. Was photography in India simply a void, filled by various cultural and historical expectations? Or can we – beneath the diversity of practices – identify moments that dramatize the limits and possibilities of photography as a supple technology? Provoked by debates around print culture, these lectures explore the difference that photography made. Was it simply a form of “late painting” wholly in thrall to enduring aesthetic schemata? Or did its “indexicality” and mass dissemination create a representational revolution?

1. Photography as Cure (18.15 on Tuesday 7th November 2006)

For many early proponents, photography appeared to resolve certain representational dilemmas. The “indexicality” of photography authorized heightened claims for its power. Tracing nineteenth-century photographers (eg. Murray and Waterhouse), and photographic projects, in India, this lecture establishes the material and infrastructural constraints that permitted the colonial state to control the use of photography. Friedrich Kittler’s “technomaterialism” is explored as a means of understanding the dynamics of photographic technology.

2. Photography as Poison (18.15 on Tuesday 14th November)

The increasing mobility of photographic technologies were pivotal in photography’s transformation from cure to poison. The conventional ‘Raj’ history of photography can be easily recast as a history of conflicts. What were largely institutional and ideological conflicts in the nineteenth century, are replayed as conflicting photographic practices in the early twentieth century. Narayan Vinayak Virkar’s and A. L. Varges’ documentation of public disorder, and the anxiety this provoked in the colonial state are discussed in detail.

3. A Photographic Revolution in Late Colonial India? (1815 on Tuesday 21st November)

What can the history of photography learn from the history of the book? What, if anything, did photography revolutionize in late colonial India? Beyond the struggles over photography at the level of the state, how did photography transform idioms of historicity, and domesticity? The responses of different visual media to 1857 is considered and emergent practices of vernacular photography traced. In the light of this, what might the history of the book learn from the history of photography?