Population Through the Camera, 15 March 2023

Population Through the Camera: Scenes and Subjects from the Asia-Pacific

This symposium brings scholars together to discuss populations within the history of photography, make sense of their presence or absence, and consider the linked spatialities and intimacies of landscape, documentary, and portrait views.

We suggest that there is an unexplored modern visual economy of population, observable in the products of one of modernity’s signal technologies: the camera. With a focus on the Asia-Pacific, where modern histories of population transfer, colonialism, and photography overlap in ways that have escaped critical attention, we ask:

  1. How has photography been used to reveal or conceal de/repopulation?
  2. How was photography used alongside other tools to expose threats to and/or erase evidence of populations within a landscape?
  3. How was photography used to document habitation at various scales?

We will raise the prospect of a new environmental history of photography with people and population as crucial points of orientation. We seek to explore the interface between geopolitics and biopolitics by charting histories of displacement and resettlement, medical intervention, and popular health, against the history of the camera in the Asia-Pacific.

15 MARCH 2023.


11.00 – Welcome and Introductions

11.15 – Population through the Camera: Women’s Photography and Colonial Modernity ~ Prof Anne Maxwell

12.30 – Lunch

13.30 – Panel One – Population in Place

  • Mediating Population and Place: An Environmental History of Population in the Western Pacific ~ Dr Jarrod Hore
  • Framing ‘Disaster’ in Colonial Java’s Densely-Populated Volcano Landscapes ~ AProf Susie Protschky
  • Photographing China’s Millions ~ Dr Chi Chi Huang

15.00 – Afternoon Tea

15.30 – Panel Two – Exposure and Erasure: Bodies and the Camera

  • Healthy Publics and the Camera in the Dutch East Indies ~ Dr Maurits Meerwijk
  • Picture Perfect? Charting a History of Indentured Indian Labour in Fiji Against Picture Postcards, 1890s-1920s ~ Suzanne Claridge
  • Photographers of an Invisible Population: German New Guinea and the Visual Archive of Female Labour ~ Dr Emma Thomas

17.00 – Close

For information, contact j.hore@unsw.edu.au. Click here to register.