KNOWLEDGE AND VISION Photography within the Portuguese colonial archive and museum (1850-1950)

Principal Investigator: Filipa Vicente (ICS-UL).

Sponsor: FCT. Reference PTDC/HIS-HIS/112198/2009.


This project had an historical perspective but benefited from a interdisciplinary approach. Despite our interests in different colonial geographies we tried to address some common problems: to understand photography as an object in itself (and not only as a surface for showing other objects), and as part of a written and material culture from where it should not be isolated. Beyond its technical novelty as a representational device, photography constituted a major cultural change, enmeshed in the creation of new forms of social, political and cultural relationships. Photography is embedded with a wider culture and it should not be isolated from it. Photography – its history, exchanges, reproductions and uses – within a colonial context was the main subject of this project. The interdisciplinary research team – some with pioneering work on the subject, others, recently arrived but highly motivated – had the challenge of bringing an object such as photography into the recent historiographical trail of colonial studies. The novelty and originality of the project came both by bringing together researchers, archivists and librarians and work that had until now remained fragmented and dispersed; and by exploring an extremely rich material – collections of photographs produced in the Portuguese colonial context that exists in the national archives, libraries and museums– inscribing it within the international theoretical and critical historiography that has approached such a subject.