PHO705: Guest Lecture (Research) – Caroline Molloy

This is the link to the Guest Lecture video.

Caroline studied Visual Anthropology for her MA. She now teaches (third-year student photographers) and is researching for her PhD.

Two main projects were discussed:

  • The Untouched Copy and
  • The Deportment Guide – photographs from a flea market but with identity hidden by hard cropping tops of heads)

The first project shown was about studios based initially in India. On a personal note as a Studio worker, it remains true that the MA Project is conducted outside of the studio environment.

By re-visiting India, to re-photograph what was revealed were the numbers of studios impacted by digital, and how this led to closures. Backgrounds had been traditional Victorian (photography had been a Victorian export to the colony).

The project themes were; studios, the owners, and the transition eventually from photographic film. Some research objectives firmed up during the project. In order to get permission to photograph the studio owner Caroline needed to agree to being photographed. This made the genre Autoethnographic. There were many norms to be learned in making the work. Communication and cultural norms had to be learned.

The work moved from studio to studio, following recommendations. Interviews were to be had with owners, their families. The work spread wider as the story and structure were forming.

Studio owners made a living but may have had to also sell gems or even slippers. There is a clear commercial side to photography in addition to the academic.

Caroline was very open about her work. The work went through a transitional phase and entered a liminal space. She adopted socially engaged conversations.

Cultural aspects mentioned:

  • Sending a business card with a model’s photo (not her own)
  • Mother Teresa played down by the official photographer
  • Owner not wanting to be photographed with flowers
  • Photograph me I’ll photograph you
  • A backdrop of English garden scene

Each point involved an unexpected re-interpretation or potential misunderstanding.

While the work was being made and interviews were obtained a notebook was kept that became part of the published work.

As an autoethnographer, it took time to learn. Knowing the kinds of questions to ask is important.

The work went public and was exhibited in Jaipur. Initially, there was a book made on Blurb with a page layout of; photo, photo, notebook, notebook.

After a series of annual trips, it became clear that Autoethnographic communities needed to be more accessible i.e. within walking distance. Carolin’s work turned to the Turkish community in London. This project examines Turkish studio practice, English studio practice and the emerging mix of the two.

Access to the subject is key to our MA students. The work still has to be true to the students’ ambitions and be authentic.


All photographs courtesy Caroline Molloy Autoenthnographer from Falmouth University guest lecture (research).