Documenting as Method: Photography in Southeast Asia

Zhuang, W. 2021. Documenting as Method: Photography in Southeast Asia. PhD thesis University of Westminster Westminster School of Arts

TitleDocumenting as Method: Photography in Southeast Asia
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsZhuang, W.

Documenting as method is a proposition for a way of writing photography and a way of making photographic work.

The proposition unfolds through a portfolio of selected writings, centring on Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey (2016). The portfolio also includes a journal essay, a book chapter, a profile essay and one curatorial text.

As a way of writing photography, documenting entails three trajectories: (a) ethnography and oral history, (b) archiving and mapping, and (c) Asian inter-referencing. It is a method that I developed to historicise, with equal care and concern, the multitude of photographic practices in Southeast Asia. It works against the binary of art versus photography, and the prevailing tendency towards a linear historiography in order to valorise a particular practice.

As a way of making work, documenting consists of three overlapping approaches: (1) documenting as looking and thinking, (2) documenting as cataloguing, and (3) documenting as world-making. It foregrounds the affect of the photographic encounter in which the photographer and the photographed person(s) meet to perform and experience their desires, which may or may not result in the making of photographs.

To put the proposition of documenting to use, I attempt a revisionist account of salon photography in Southeast Asia. Documenting as method allows me to surface the agency of individual practitioners without losing sight of salon photography’s relationship with political power during the shifting processes of nationalism, decolonisation and cold war. It helps me foreground Chineseness, which intersected the nation-building process, as an additional factor in the praxis of salon photography.

As a way of making work, documenting offers a method for me to unpack the spectre of Chineseness through my photographic encounter with the Chinese Muslims in Indonesia. The experience of making work also informs the proposition of documenting as method.

File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
PublishedJan 2021
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Permalink -

Share this

Usage statistics

736 total views
731 total downloads
These values cover views and downloads from WestminsterResearch and are for the period from September 2nd 2018, when this repository was created.