The Writing with Light collective was a SCA/SVA joint initiative which provided editors and authors the opportunity to focus closely on the photo-essay as a distinctly multimodal form of anthropology. The photo-essays provided the opportunity for extended conversations among us and others about a series of specific concerns regarding the relation between image and text in the digital age. The initiative featured open reviews to provide models for engaging with text and image as equal and interrelated modes of anthropological knowledge production. When relaunched as Writing with Light—as a joint initiative between the Society for Cultural Anthropology and the Society for Visual Anthropology—the expanded five-person editorial collective re-emphasized the importance of developing appropriate frameworks for peer review and evaluation.1 Our aim was to conceptually push the juxtaposition of images and text in more sustained efforts to advance anthropological insights through empirically grounded, theoretically informed, and aesthetically engaging practice-based photo-essays. Over the span of three years we published nine photo-essays, rejecting around four submissions for every one accepted. Each submission was reviewed internally and included significant editorial support from members of the collective before being sent out for blind peer review. As we move forward, we remain committed to showcasing innovative work that explores how the interplay between image, text, and layout can push forward anthropological knowledge while also opening it up to new publics. Furthermore, as we develop a new publication platform, we will actively participate in reflecting upon and answering questions posed by the often rapid and sometimes unexpected shifts in online publishing and multimodal forms of expression and narrative construction. Keeping in line with the spirit of the collective, Writing with Light will continue to explore the ways that the photo-essay has, is, and can continue to be a site for anthropological debate and innovation.
1. The collective initially comprised Vivian Choi, Mark Westmoreland, Zeynep Gürsel, Arjun Shankar, and Craig Campbell. Lee Douglas joined Writing with Light in 2017.