Announcing CA Photo Essays

This post is being archived for historical purposes, but it no longer contains the most current information about Cultural Anthropology's Photo Essays section. In 2016, the section was relaunched as a collaboration with Visual Anthropology Review.

In 2010, a conversation was ignited over incorporating photo essays into the new Cultural Anthropology website. The conversation, which started about a photo essay project, quickly transformed into a discussion about disciplinary boundaries, peer review, and new directions in anthropology. With the understanding that so many anthropologists are engaged in alternative forms of critical ethnographic expression and thought came the realization that it was time for renewed discussion about content and aesthetics as well as procedure and review.

From Danny Hoffman’s “Corpus: Mining the Border.”

It is with great pleasure, then, that we introduce Cultural Anthropology’s first photo essay, “Corpus: Mining the Border,” by Daniel Hoffman. In this inaugural essay our goal was to present an aesthetically and intellectually powerful piece of work and to spur provocative conversation. Our goal was to facilitate a conversation about the medium and the message; to do so we felt we needed to press the boundaries and ask our contributor and reviewers to reset the stage of peer review. They all graciously agreed to do so. The result is that we have a stunning essay presented with “open” peer reviews.

By choosing an “open” peer review process we mean to perform a critical engagement with the photos, while also instigating a discussion between author and reviewers, as well as author, reviewers, and audience. This would produce a different reviewing and viewing process while facilitating new conversations about ethnography and representation. It would also be to further ask: What is the intent of peer review? And what can we do differently with this process (and this medium)? Our two reviewers, Zeynep Gürsel and Alan Klima, generously agreed to have their comments made public in service of starting the dialogue.

We believe this first photo essay sets a high bar for the potentialities of visual anthropology. Our hope is that this will lead to further discussions: on photography, the role of art and media in anthropology, and also the process and practice of peer review for these representative modes of ethnographic work. It is meant to be an invitation and a provocation. While future photo essays will not necessarily engage in an “open” peer review process, this initial issue functions as a call for content and contributions.  It is also a call for dialogue about the practice of visual anthropology and what counts as scholarly practice.

Call for Photo Essays

Cultural Anthropology hopes to publish one photo essay with each print issue. Photo essays will be published in a dynamic format online so that comments and reviews put the author in direct dialogue with viewers. The essays will also explore alternative peer-review formats in an attempt to initiate new modes of collaboration and critical standards for visual content. We welcome photo essay submissions that are both empirically grounded and theoretically provocative.

All photo essay images are displayed within a 1600 x 1000 pixel frame. To ensure optimal quality, authors can resize photos to fit within these dimensions, i.e. portrait photos have a maximum height of 1000px and landscape photos have a maximum width of 1600px. If a photo is larger than these dimensions, it will be automatically resized to fit within the frame, while maintaining its original aspect ratio.