Early Field Photography and Visual Documentation of Northern Indigenous Cultures

Ivan Poliakov’s Collection, 1876

in Sibirica
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This article deals with the analysis of the first collection of ethnographic photographs brought to the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (MAE) in Saint Petersburg from the Ob River by the Russian zoologist Ivan Poliakov in 1876. The article analyzes this collection as the first evidence in the history of visual anthropology of the North in Russia. Based on the historical documents from the Russian archives and Poliakov’s published field notes the article looks at his photographs through their social history both in the field and at the MAE. The article tells the story of this collection, which intertwines the organization of expedition, the technical history of photography, the relationships between Poliakov and indigenous communities of the Ob River, the photographic genres he preferred, and the history of the registration and cataloguing of the photographs at the MAE.


Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies