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Negotiating History: Photography in Sámi Culture

It has been stated that the Sámi population is among the most photographed people in the world. Hardly any cultural form of expression has been more formational for general perceptions and conceptions of the Sámi than photography. In spite of this, photog raphs in the Sámi context have remained largely unexplored. This project aims to study the role and position of Sámi photographs in the past and present by bringing together three distinct but interrelated empirical fields: First, the ambition is to map p hotographs from the Sámi area which are kept in multiple and dispersed archives, museums and other institutions in Norway and abroad and to analyse and discuss the photographs in relation to their contextual anchoring, their distribution, circulation and various uses through time and space. A comprehensive record of this material does not exist. Secondly, the project aims to study the way historical photographs are used in new ways in the contemporary society, both within and outside institutional frames. Of particular interest is the use of photographs as a means of self-recognition, in memory projects and in the formation and exploration of identity. Essential venues are museum exhibitions, publications and digital media. During the recent years there has been an explosive activity through blogs and social media such as Facebook, Instagram, etc. Such means of expression are not least significant for Sámi children and youth, who actively make use of photography as a means of self-articulation. Thirdly, the project will study the recirculation of historical photographs and other uses of photography within Sámi contemporary art. It will ask how Sámi artists use photography in their exploration of history and renegotiation of the past, and how they critica lly approach Sáminess and Sámi identity in our time.

Sigrid Lien
01.02.2014 - 31.01.2017