Past Event

‘Photography and Tibet’: Politics, Aesthetics and Agency in Tibet Photography

February 21, 2023
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
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Butler Library, 535 W 114th St, Room 523

Speaker: Clare Harris, Professor of Visual Anthropology at the University of Oxford, Curator for Asian Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and Fellow of the British Academy

Moderator: Lauran Hartley, Director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program; Associate Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University

From the earliest attempts to capture Tibet with the camera in the mid-nineteenth century, photographs have been used to create visual narratives about the country and its people and to perform in politicised debates about them. Initially, outsiders from both East and West dominated the practice of enlisting photography to construct representations of Tibet ranging from the positive to the malign. However, by the early twentieth century, Tibetans themselves began to take up the camera and to deploy it in ways that deviate from those externally produced stereotypes. In this talk, Clare Harris, explores some of the modes in which photographs have been instrumentalised by insiders and outsiders and critically evaluates the history of Tibet photography. The talk will be an overview of some of the arguments presented in her book, ‘Photography and Tibet’, and illustrated with many of the rare images she has unearthed in archives and elsewhere over the course of more than twenty years of research on the subject.

Speaker Bio: Clare Harris is Professor of Visual Anthropology at the University of Oxford, Curator for Asian Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and a Fellow of the British Academy. She has published widely on art, museums, colonialism and collecting, photography, and the politics of representation with special reference to Tibet and the Tibetan diaspora. Her award-winning books include ‘The Museum on the Roof of the World: Art, Politics and the Representation of Tibet’ (2012). Her latest curatorial project with a Tibetan artist was ‘Performing Tibetan Identities’, an exhibition featuring the work of the Lhasa-based photographer and designer, Nyema Droma.

This event is sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and co-sponsored by the Modern Tibetan Studies Program.


  • To attend this event in-person, please register HERE. Please note that non-CUID holders need to show proof of their primary series and one booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • To register to attend this event online, please register HERE.

Contact Information

Julie Kwan