Professor Elizabeth Edwards

Job: Professor Emeritus

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities

Research group(s): Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC)

Address: N/A

T: n/a




Personal profile

A visual and historical anthropologist, Professor Edwards has worked extensively on the relationships between photography, anthropology and history, on the social practices of photography, on the materiality of photographs and on photography and historical imagination.  She has previously held posts as Curator of Photographs at Pitt Rivers Museum and lecturer in visual anthropology at the University of Oxford, and at the University of the Arts London. In addition to major monographs, she has published over 80 essays in journals and exhibition catalogues over the years, is on the board of major journals in the field including Visual Studies and History of Photography. She serves on numerous academic committees and peer-review colleges, was Vice-President of the Royal Anthropological Institute 2009-12 and in spring 2012 held a Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Durham.  With colleagues in the Netherlands and Norway, she undertook a major HERA/European-funded project on the role of the photographic legacy of the colonial past in contemporary Europe.  She is currently working on late nineteenth and early twentieth century photographic societies and networks of photographic knowledge, on the market in ‘ethnographic’ photographs across scientific and popular domains in the nineteenth century, and the relationship between photography and historical method.

Research group affiliations

Key research outputs

2012 The Camera as Historian: Amateur Photographers and Historical Imagination 1885-1918.  Durham NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-5104-7

2012 PhotoCLEC. 'Photographs, Colonial Legacy and Museums in Contemporary European Culture' ( web resource

2009 Photography, Anthropology and History (ed, with C. Morton, ) (Aldershot: Ashgate) ISBN 978-0-7546-9800-5

2009 Photography and the Material Performance of the Past. History and Theory 48(4): 130-50. ISSN 0018-2656

2008 Entangled Documents: Visualised Histories. In Susan Meiselas In History New York:Steidl ICP

Research interests/expertise

  • Photography and historical imagination
  • The making of photographic knowledge.
  • Cross-cultural perspectives in photographic practice.
  • Relationship between photography and museum practice.
  • The history of photograph collections especially in anthropology.
  • The relationship between anthropology, photography and history

Areas of teaching

Photographic history, visual anthropology, material culture studies and museum studies.

Membership of professional associations and societies

  • Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute
  • Member and Past Chair, Museum Ethnographers Group

Current research students

Professor Edwards welcomes enquiries from potential PhD students in areas broadly related to her research interests.  She is currently supervising PhDs, in photography, archive and national identity, photography and historiography, photography, material culture and the historical sciences, and in aspects of the social and cultural history of photography.


Externally funded research grants information

2012-15 Collaborative Doctoral Award with the British Museum: Alfred Maudslay, Photography and the Mimetic Technologies of Archaeology: A Study in Method, Process and Effect.

2010-12 HERA (European Joint Humanities Research/ EU Framework Programme 7) ‘Photographs, Colonial Legacy and Museums in Contemporary European Culture’ Project Leader. (€463,250 over 18 months).

2010 Marc Fitch Fund. Publication Grant for The Camera as Historian. £1000.

Elizabeth Edwards
The Camera as Historian