Conference: Photographing Asia: Images of Russia‘s Orient in the 19th and 20th centuries

16.09.2015 - 2015-09-18

September 16th till 18th the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies is going to host the International Conference "Photographing Asia: Images of Russia‘s Orient in the 19th and 20th centuries". It is organized by Andreas Renner, Member of the Graduate School and Professor for Russian and Asian Studies at the LMU Munich, and Laura Elias , Lecturer at the University of Basel's Department of History, in co-operation with the Graduate School.

With its recent remarkable exhibition on the photographic discovery of Asia, the reopened Museum of East Asian Art in Cologne focused on how photography was introduced to Asia by European travellers and was soon adapted by non-Europeans who then quickly learned how photographs of Asia could loosen the European purse strings. The museum's exhibits followed the camera's triumph from Istanbul to India, from South-East Asia to Yokohama, while disregarding the entire Northern Asia. And yet, the photographic discovery of a region that once belonged to Tsarist Russia and later to the USSR has been quite well documented. Since the mid-19th century, explorers, tourists, and later photo journalists have also been creating an impressive photographic image of Russia's Asia.

The Russian view of the Asian territories within the borders of the Tsarist Empire or Soviet Union is the main focus of our conference. In what context were the pictures taken, how were they perceived? What images of Asian Russia were constructed on the basis of such photographic depictions? Can those images be classed with a model of visual orientalism or was there a typical Russian view of Asia? What role did the photographers from the Asian territories play and how did photography develop there in comparison with and contestation with the centre of the empire?
Russia's Asia did not end at the far-east borders of the Tsarist Empire or the USSR, though.

A second focus will be put on photographers and their photographic infrastructures. The Cologne show also referred to the Russian travellers as being among those who paved the way for photographing Asia. Some of them were emissaries of the Tsar and had taken the first camera to the Persian Court in as early as 1842. Only a few years later, Russian photographers started their systematic discoveries of the empire's Asian territories. Some of their photos (e.g. the Turkestan album of 1872 - or later- the picture stories by the Soviet photographer Maks Al'pert) were renowned beyond the national borders. And yet, their diachronic placement in other photographic series as well as their synchronic connection with contemporary (stylistic to political) demands and (medial or social) impacts have only been insufficiently studied. However, this is a basic prerequisite for advancing to an analysis of images of Asia based on photographs taken in Asia.

The conference will certainly not exhaust all the afore-mentioned issues. They should offer new perspectives on the history of photography in Russia regarding individual photographers, recurrent motifs, exhibitions or societies. Furthermore, our idea is to take stock of an expanding (and expandable) field of research and to create networks.



Wednesday, September 16

19.00–20.30: Keynote Lecture
Opening New Spaces: Far Lands and their Peoples in Russian Photography of the Second Half of the 19th Century
Elena Barkhatova, Saint Petersburg

20.30–22.00: Reception

Thursday, September 17

9.30–10.00: Introduction
Laura Elias, Basel & Andreas Renner, Munich

10.00–12.30: Panel I: Images of Russian Colonial Turkestan

  • Photographing Central Asia under Russian Rule
    Inessa Kouteinikova, Amsterdam
  • Orden, Appropriation & Image Stock: Marketing Photography of Russian Colonial Central Eurasia
    Heather Sonntag, Madison,WI

Coffee Break

  • Konstantin von Kaufmann:Photography: One of the Tools of the Invention of theCultural Heritage of Russian Turkestan
    Svetlana Gorshenina, Lausanne

Laura Elias, Basel

12.30–14.00: Lunch

14.00–16.30: Panel II: Picturing Space

  • On the Roads to Nowhere: Environment and Image-Making on Semireche‘s Postroads
    Jennifer Keating, London
  • Photographing Landscape and People: Political Exiles and Visual Representations of Sibiria in late Imperial Russia
    Tatiana Saburova, Omsk

Coffee Break

  • KVGD (Chinese-Eastern Railroad) as a Photo-Genre in the Creation of the Visual Image of the Russian Orient
    Viktoriya Sukovata, Kharkiv

Benjamin Schenk, Basel

17.30–19.00: Evening Lecture
Prokudin-Gorsky‘s “Homeland-study” by color photography: Its meaning for cultural studies
Tetsuo Mochizuki, Sapporo

19.30: Dinner

Friday, September 18

9.30–12.45: Panel III: Central Asia in Soviet Imagery

  • Framing the Religious Other: Buddhism and Islam in Late Imperial and Early Soviet Photography
    Ivan Sablin & Marina Zimina, Saint Petersburg
  • Everyday Life in Motion:Photographs of the Central Asian Expedition, 1926-29
    Anja Burghardt, Munich

Coffee Break

  • A Textbook Example of Modernization: The Album “10 Years Uzbek SSR”, 1934/35
    Helena Holzberger, Munich
  • Orient in my Album: Central Asia in Soviet Amateur Travel Photography
    Oksana Sarkisova, Budapest & Olga Shevchenko, Williamstown MA

Ada Raev, Bamberg

12.45–14.15: Lunch

14.15–16.15: Conclusions & Perspectives

History and Photography
Jens Jäger, Cologne

Final Discussion


The symposium will be held at the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies in Munich (Maria-Theresia-Str. 21, 81675 München) and will be conducted in English.
For attending the workshop as a guest, please register with Kornelia Hohenadler.

(Please note that there is a mistake in the programme: It must be "Olga Shevchenko, Williamstown MA")

Go back