UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"It's nice to see old friends again" : family photographs, 'advice', and archival power in a Northern Coast Salish community Solomonian, Adam Arthur


Photography has a rich and complex past and present among the shíshálh Coast Salish, a self-governing Indigenous Nation on British Columbia’s southern Northwest Coast. This dissertation explores the multiple ways in which photography intersects with contemporary shíshálh (pronounced sheesh-ath) lives. I argue that, far from being an imposed colonial technology, photography is localized in unique, transformative ways. Drawing on James L. Hevia’s (2009) notion of the “photography complex,” I examine the key ways through which photography is culturally active and activated. This begins with locating photography within the complex that is “family” in shíshálh territory. I then move to a discussion of the relationship between photography and cultural memory—as both oral history-telling and public performance. Next, I consider how photographs operate as contact zones between shíshálh peoples and others. Finally, I explore the ways through which photographs are transformed by, in particular, digital preservation and its relationship to more analogue, familial forms of photographic sociality.

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