Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Paul Christensen




photography, anthropologists, camera, lens


My thesis explores how anthropologists use photography as a research method in capturing cultural realities different from their own. This was a library-based research study where coding and semiotic analysis were used to investigate photographs from anthropologists and my term abroad experience of photographing another culture in Vietnam, fall 2011. This analysis specifically looks at the photographs of Branislaw Malinowski’s fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands during the early 1900’s, of Margaret Mead’s fieldwork in a Balinese village during the 1930’s and 1940’s, and of Philippe Bourgois’ fieldwork in a San Francisco inner-city homeless community during the 1990’s. Over time, the camera lens shift from focusing on the anthropologist’s authoritative position to balancing objective and subjective lens’ to finally acknowledging the presence of multiple subjectivities both in front of and behind the camera. Anthropological methodology, public attitudes towards camera technology and its products, and perceptions of power and agency have changed to include multiple voices. Ultimately these three case studies show that creating communitas is not always disrupted by the camera, when both anthropologist and local informants cross borders to different places of power in the act of presenting their identities in public spaces.