The Student Issue |


Sandra Mathews

Photography was brought to Asia by Europeans and Americans soon after its invention in i 839. We have records of photographs being made in India as early as 1840 and in China by 1842. Yet with all the richness and complexity of the photographic work made in Asia, there has been, until recently, little recognition of this work in international forums. If we look at the major histories of photography that have been written in or translated into English —the contemporary international language —we find only slight mention of photographers working in Asia and other non-Western locations.

The last two decades have seen a gradual but accelerating change. Important books and exhibitions have detailed specific photographic histories in India, China, Japan and other countries, and scholarship about photography in Asia is blossoming.

In this context, the Trans Asia Photography Review is a peer-reviewed, open-access, online scholarly journal published by Hampshire College in collaboration with the University of Michigan Library (Michigan Publishing), and is the only journal in the world supporting the interdisciplinary study of photography from all regions of Asia. We aim to encourage the development of this field by bringing together the perspectives of curators, historians, photographers, anthropologists, and others from within and outside of Asia.

Our interests are inclusive, informed by questions about the interaction of photography
and culture. We are open to authors taking on politically sensitive topics (as Shahidul Alarm did in his work from Bangladesh), or presenting the work of women artists (as Sabeena Gadihoke did in her project on Homai Vyarawalla’s work in the late 1930’s and early 1940s). We are always interested in all Kinds and forms of photography as a media —art photographs (such as those featured in Murtaza Vali’s project on contemporary portrait work in India and Pakistan), official government-sponsored photographs, family photographs, publicity photographs, and more. We have published chapter of Siddhartha Ghosh’s important history of photography in Bengal, translated into English for the first time. 2 One of our biggest goals is to shed new light on the photographic past so that recent work can have a fuller context.

The ‘trans-Asia’ framework of the journal raises some fundamental questions. What is ‘Asia’? How is a national or regional framework relevant for thinking about photography? What happens to local practices when they circulate globally? In relation to what concepts and histories can photography from Asia be best understood? Are trans-national histories of photography possible?

Another challenge we face has to do with language. The TAP Review is published in English; this makes it quite widely accessible and allows people who do not otherwise share a language to read each others’ work. However, it also excludes readers. We are exploring publishing some articles in two languages (English and the native language of the writer) as a way to reach specific audiences.

Although we cannot reach everyone we would like to, the TAP Review has seemed to meet a need. The journal receives more than 36,000 individual visitors per year, hailing from six continents. We look forward to continuing to provide a forum for a broad discussion of photography in all regions of Asia, and to supporting the emergence of new histories.

Most issues of the TAP Review have a theme. The theme of the spring 2018 issue will be ‘Voyages’.

Annapura Dutta

Annapurna Dutta, Self-portrait from “Zenana Studio: Early Women Photographers of Bengal,” from Taking Pictures: The Practice of Photography by Bengalis, by Siddhartha Ghosh. Published originally in Bengali by Ananda Publishers (1988).Translated by Debjani Sengupta.