Film as an archive for colonial photographs: activating the past in the present

Pennell, M. 2016. Film as an archive for colonial photographs: activating the past in the present. PhD thesis University of Westminster Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design

TitleFilm as an archive for colonial photographs: activating the past in the present
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsPennell, M.

This practice-led research looks at the ways in which the colonial archive, and the colonial photographic archive in particular, can be reconstructed to produce new critical histories. The research argues for the potential of the moving image as a tool for re-staging colonial archives, as a means of generating responsible ways of looking at, and of engaging with our troubled collective pasts.

In my practice I mix the photographic archive of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company(which became BP) with my family’s photographs from Iran, and with the
documentation and narrativization of my encounter with both of these sets of materials, within the moving image. Through this process I address questions
about the nature of the photographic archive and the search for historical meaning within it; the question of the researcher’s position within the archive and
within the history she produces; and I investigate the affective power of colonial photographs within film and the experience of untimeliness which they produce.

While addressing problems associated with the failure of photographic archives to offer access to any stable, transparent meaning, I show how engaging with
slippages of meaning can produce other kinds of historical knowledge. But I also argue that attending to the impression of the ‘real’ produced by the colonial
photograph as it appears within film, makes the past felt in the present tense, in ways that draw attention to the responsibility of being an onlooker in a situation of injustice. In addition I show how registering the place and time of the researcher
within the new filmic archive in motion produces an effective means of imaginative time travel and a lively experience of history.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

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