Research · Post-colonial: National geographic

The old made new

Here with this link we can see attempts made to offer contemporary narratives utilising a traditional look with the tint type dry plate photography that we would have witnessed by Curtis in the 1800’s:

Whilst the archaic medium attempts to replicate the original look of old photos along with the new narratives, I remained completely unconvinced that the project has any strength or validity. ‘Every photograph, every person has a story to tell, and I am supporting them to tell these stories through their portrait and voice recordings'(Spitzer, cited in Berger 2008) [1]. 

My criticism of this project is as follows:

We have seen that one of the problematic areas of photographing indigenous tribes and communities from the 1800’s till present day is the tendency to romanticise, fetishise and reduce the breadth and complexity of these often complex societies to a set of ‘noble’ but primitive portraits. This has given us the perspective of a peoples that in some way are beneath us and also has done very little to really reveal and educate the masses about these disappearing cultures. Although Spitzer’s project is playful, I see it as falling into exactly the same trap as the early photographers of tribal peoples i.e. there is a tendency to be nostalgic and romantic (rather than retrospectively, simply comitting the same error with contemporary narratives).

It appears obvious that the artist is aware not, oblivious, to the history of photography in this area as the reference of letting people ‘tell their stories’ (2008) suggests that indeed they want the people to communicate from their own side. This is noted. However, the problem as I see it is that the tendency to romanticise still appears, only they are modern day myths not ancient.


  1. Berger, M. (2008) Kali Spitzer, Reclaiming an old medium to tell new stories about native Americans [online] [accessed, May 2020]

Published by Truevisionphotography

I'm a student photographer studying through the OCA a UK based arts university. I'm in the foundation year of my studies and enjoying it immensely. I'm also a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bodhiyoga a buddhism based yoga teacher training program that runs in the UK and Spain each year. As a photographer I'm interested in all forms of fine art. I find the arts really important in my life. I love nature and aim to be in the outdoors as much as I can. Generally I think that all the different strands of my life are flowing to towards self development in the greatest sense of the term. The arts, buddhist practice yoga and meditation are all tools to that end. I feel committed to communication the these values in the world both through the visual arts as well as teaching.

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