A Different Caucasus
Early Triumphs of Photography in the Caucasus
Many key episodes in the history of Russian colonialism were recorded in photographic images made after the fact, as the events predated the invention of photography. A remarkable example of the shared collaboration and commutative value between photography and architecture is provided by the work of several nineteenth century Russian and international photographers in the Caucasus. Be them skilled photographers of architecture such as Edward Wesley and Dmitri Ermakov, or professionals depicting sites of military and political events, eighteenth century photographers in the Caucasus provide a splendid example of how photography would lay across several fields at its beginnings: from craft to commerce, from political celebration to media purpose, from ethnographic and architectural documentation to mere artistic aims. Following the footsteps of artists travelling in the Caucasus, the paper will show how photographers thus became agents of a complex process by which eyewitness was recorded and became part of a growing body of knowledge about the character of Caucasus. The images they produced belonged to a field of cultural production that concluded inventories and scholarly research, museum collections of ethnographic paraphernalia and architectural fragments; photographic archives and picturesque views of a more commercial nature. Operating on a number of different levels, photographs of architectural monuments and historical sites intersected significantly with the Russian project of colonizing the Caucasian subcontinent.
Keywords: Caucasus • Early photography