Institute of Social Anthropology

Prof. Dr. Schäuble, Michaela

“Press the power button”. The camera instruction manual of the 20th and 21st centuries from a gender and postcolonial perspective.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michaela Schäuble, Universität Bern, Institut für Sozialanthropologie, Schwerpunkt Medienanthropologie
Prof. Dr. Andi Schoon, Hochschule der Künste Bern HKB, Leiter des Y Instituts

Since the democratization of photography in 1888, with the invention of Kodak, the practice of photography has become highly automated by technological developments. It has increasingly developed into a more 'progressive practice', as the camera became an 'image production machine' (Azoulay, 2015)1. The focus of this current PhD research work is the amateur camera instruction manual, which accompanies the camera in order to understand what is transmitted from the industry to the user. The instruction manual transmits all of the camera’s information to the user in the form of text and pictures in their technical, economic, legal, social and ethical capacity. It is designed for smooth interaction between the camera and the user with the aim of incorporating these instructions into the users’ habits and shaping its image practice. I will critically assess the social impact of the camera instructions in the manual from a gender and postcolonial perspective, in order to understand how the gaze of the camera sold by the imaging industry is translated and transmitted and how the power relations are articulated through practice and the form of visuality. I will examine seven amateur camera instruction manuals of the 20th and 21st centuries and their related material relevant to amateur imaging practices, which have fundamentally changed the practice of photography and its social impact on the basis of social semiotics.

1 The European Photography Industry Federation estimated 1,138 trillion photographs produced (Trendreport, 2016)

Research Topics

Medienanthropologie, Sozialanthropologie, Künstlerische Strategien, Kamera Manual, Performance, Anti-Kapitalismus, Soziale Interaktionen, Soziale Bewegungen