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A Different Caucasus

Early Triumphs of Photography in the Caucasus

Karina Solovyova    Russian Museum of Ethnography, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia    

Inessa Kouteinikova    Russian Museum of Ethnography, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia    



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.

Dec. 20, 2016
Sept. 23, 2016
July 13, 2016

Keywords: Early photographyCaucasus

Copyright: © 2016 Karina Solovyova, Inessa Kouteinikova. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.