Over the course of my residency some of the staff have asked whether I can represent the transmission of acquired archaeological knowledge. I am focusing my residency on the relationships between archaeologist – subject material – tools with a special interest in how tools define identity, roles and activities. But what about the use of the knowledge acquired through fieldwork and analysis? This is part of the archaeological process and the crux of one debate with members of the department.
There are many ways to approach this. One way is to photograph lecturers communicating knowledge to students in the class room. I have spent one afternoon with two lecturers and will aim to spend time with others. The first victims of having to lecture with a camera directed in their faces and flashguns held over their heads were Mike Parker-Pearson and Paul Pettitt, teaching Iron Age Europe and Neanderthals respectively. They, and their classes, were very patient for having such an intrusion into their lectures, which are part-dissemination, part-performance, and must rely partly on clear channels of communication between lecturer and students.
I was mostly drawn to the lecturer as performing personality against a backdrop of powerpoint presentations. While the powerpoints are outwardly their main props, but the conviction of their delivery, surety of spoken content and personality are more essential in communicating knowledge effectively and convincingly. This suggested to me the need to visually depict them as animated portraits, focusing on facial and hand gestures, with the projection screens in the background to show the context of what these gestures represented. This was more akin to theatre photography. Capturing the lecturers in front of the projections, caught in the harsh light of acquired knowledge, which became layered and written over them appeared to emphasis their roles as communicators.
I also took a small number of photographs of students listening to the lecturers, and this is something I’d like to concentrate on another time.
You can see the first photographs in the gallery at Transmission.