Archaeology has a long, complex, and fascinating entanglement with photography, a relationship that continues into the digital age. While there have been several studies regarding analog archaeological photography, relatively few have queried the transition toward digital media. Fewer still have connected critical theoretical viewpoints to a more informed media-making practice in archaeology. To investigate the effects of the transition from analog to digital photography on archaeological theory building and practice, I drew from an established body of theory in visual studies to create a more robust, interdisciplinary study of visualisation in archaeology. While my investigation of digital archaeological photography revealed important technological considerations, issues regarding representation, authority, and authenticity also quickly became apparent. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of both analog and digital archaeological photographs exposed interesting disciplinary shifts and uninterrogated power dynamics in the field. While digital photography is changing the way that archaeologists are thinking about and doing archaeology, it also reveals the complexity of the relationships present on an archaeological project, in the local community and online. In this, photography can act as a dangerous supplement for archaeology, a Derridean concept W.J.T. Mitchell (2002) ascribed to visuality disrupting the cohesion of traditionally defined disciplines. Examining visual practice opens archaeology as a discipline to new avenues of critique that can encourage more reflexive practice.
To provide a context to this research, I first briefly describe the background of photography and archaeology as practiced by archaeologists from the United States and the United Kingdom. Then, using the photographic record from the site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey as a case study, I elaborate on techniques from visual studies to understand the social context and implications of photography in archaeology. Following this analysis I discuss the process of creating a theory-laden practice of archaeological photography and investigate photography and visualisation as a particularly productive instance of the dangerous supplement. Finally, I explore the implications of merging this theory-laden practice with emancipatory strategies to produce a more inclusive, reflexive digital archaeology.
Internet Archaeology is an open access journal. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.