Announcing the 2020 Photographic Studies Award: Prof Darren Newbury

The RAI Photography Committee are pleased to announce that the Fourth Photography Studies Award has been given to Prof Darren Newbury. The Prize is awarded by the RAI Council to recognize a distinguished contribution to the study of anthropology and photography. As a Professor of Photographic History at the University of Brighton, Prof Newbury has, over the past twenty years, developed a body of work exploring the practice and meaning of photography in South Africa. Whilst not an anthropologist by training, he has collaborated with numerous anthropologists and collections, and his work has had a lasting influence on anthropological understandings of the social role of photography and the ethnography of visual culture in South Africa, as well as the development of an important curatorial practice, with important exhibitions held at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the District Six Museum in Cape Town. Influential volumes include Defiant Images: Photography and Apartheid South Africa (2009), a major monograph on photography during the apartheid period and its place in post-apartheid memorialisation; and The African Photographic Archive: Research and Curatorial Strategies (2015), co-edited with Christopher Morton, a volume exploring new methodological approaches to researching and curating the photographic archive, in addition to its specifically African concerns; and a new volume, Women and Photography in Africa: Creative Practices and Feminist Challenges, co-edited with Lorena Rizzo and Kylie Thomas, is due to be published later this year.

Sadly, our award giving ceremony, scheduled for Friday 13 March at 5.30 - 7:30pm, was postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We hope to reschedule in 2021.

Dr Chris Morton (Pitt Rivers Museum) writes:

“I first met Darren in Durham in 2009 at the Durham Centre for Advanced Photography Studies conference 'Humanizing Photography'. There he gave a paper on photography of the Apartheid era in South Africa, and spoke about the afterlives of Apartheid images in post-Apartheid South Africa, their resonances and continuing power to reveal hidden histories and question dominant narratives. Darren’s major monograph, Defiant Images: Photography and Apartheid South Africa, is a ground-breaking book that argues convincingly for the recognition of a particularly South Africa form of engaged documentary practice of photography, which he carefully traces from the 1930s up to the 1980s. In the subsequent exhibition of the work of photographer Bryan Heseltine (held at the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2011 and the District Six Museum in Cape Town in 2013), Darren explored the notion of the archive, a distinctly slippery concept when one considered the route by which Heseltine's work had come to light. It was a collection that had a social biography, moments of public engagement and exhibition, followed by obscurity, yet it had now become partly institutionalised through academic engagement, digitization and exhibition, and yet still remained in the family's possession.  We decided to explore these methodological issues in a multi-disciplinary workshop to accompany the exhibition which was published in 2015 as The African Photographic Archive: Research and Curatorial Strategies, and featured essays by people such as Heike Behrend, Richard Vokes, John Peffer, Patricia Hayes, Erin Haney, and Jennifer Bajorek.

Darren reflected on the process of returning these photographs for exhibition in an article in African Arts in 2015, where he pointed out that the 'dislocations of the past negate the possibility that the photographs can simply be inserted into a narrative of community'. As one reviewer of his work said, Darren deals with these complex histories with 'remarkable empathy, intelligence and panache', and I can't think of three better words to sum up Darren's contribution to the field.”

Professor Newbury responds:

“It is a real honour to have my work recognised in this way by the Royal Anthropological Institute, and especially gratifying as someone who trained initially as a photographer and has no academic grounding in the discipline of anthropology. From the time of my doctoral research around photography and education in the early 1990s, I felt a conceptual and methodological affinity with the new writing and thinking on photography emerging from anthropology; specifically, its attention to photography as a social and cultural practice, and to the medium’s relational qualities. As this body of scholarship has flourished in the years since, it has continued to inform and shape my research in contexts that range from post-apartheid South Africa, to my current work in US Cold War archives exploring a very particular ‘photography of relations’. The dialogue, literal and metaphorical, with anthropologists working on photography has been absolutely central to my development as a researcher and writer, and I am delighted therefore to accept the award as formal acknowledgment of membership of this scholarly community.”