"Documentary Photography as Vocation: Reflecting on Frank Cancian's Contribution to Visual Studies" by Brian F. O'Neill

Brian F. O'Neill

Brian F. O'Neill is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Recently, Brian F. O'Neill published an article on his conversation with Frank Cancian titled "Documentary Photography as Vocation: Reflecting on Frank Cancian's Contribution to Visual Studies" click here to read his article. 

Abstract: "This article explores the works of the late anthropologist Frank Cancian, specifically considering Another Place (1974), Orange County Housecleaners (2006), and Lacedonia – An Italian Town, 1957 (2016). Re-reading his works together reveals Another Place as a point of departure that concretised Cancian’s vision of documentary photography as a vocation. In particular, the article explores the implications of an exchange with none other than John Collier Jr. that followed the publication of Another Place. This moment reveals Cancian’s orientation towards visual ethnography as toolkit to mobilise a version of cultural relativism and demonstrates Cancian’s resistance to any rigid notions of scientific visual anthropology. The article therefore argues that, in essentially separating the products of his photographic practice (e.g., photobooks) from his ‘professional’ anthropology, Cancian sought new modes of expression through photography. In so doing, he thus confronted an enduring problem for visual scholars – how to engage the world analytically vs. aesthetically. Especially for this reason, bringing Cancian out of contemporary obscurity is useful for visually oriented scholars today".

 

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