“In its own Image: Beginnings of Photography in Senegal”
Giulia Paoletti, Assistant Professor of Art History
My current book project reframes narratives of photography’s origin and originality by zooming into the first one hundred years of photography in Senegal (1860-1960). Senegal has received significant attention as one of the epicenters of modernism in the Black Atlantic, and yet, the advent of photography in the country in the 1840s has hardly been considered in shaping the local experience of modernity. Rather than approaching photography as either a “local” or a “foreign” technology, this project builds on Ariella Azoulay’s idea that photography is not “susceptible to monopolization.” Not only couldn’t the colonizers hold this technology hostage, but no one could. Photography—as analogic image, reproducible copy, movable object, portable technology, and itinerant authorship—travels unbound to time and space and cannot be contained. Based on nearly ten years of field and archival research in Senegal, this book will foreground four case studies, each considering different materialities, genres, aesthetics and authors that will at once undermine the linearity of photography’s history and show how the photographic image, in its analogic relation to the world, is constantly being re-invented and in the process, it has the power to disrupt imperial expectations.