BiographyRoger Balm is the author of "Archaeology’s Visual Culture: Digging and Desire" (Routledge 2016). Archaeology is a remarkable field of study in many ways, but really stands apart from other sciences in its richly visual recording methods and its long history of creativity. Through a series of case studies, this book investigates key features of documentary imagery from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, focusing on the attitudes, aspirations and longings of its image-makers. The book uses visual records (drawings, paintings, maps, diagrams, site recordings, remote-sensing photographs) as primary sources of evidence, and over fifty illustrations are included in the book.
Balm is currently at work on a successor manuscript, "The Disenchantment of Archaeology: Revenge of the Image" which explores archaeology’s break with its centuries-long conventions of pictorial imagery as ways of seeing, showing, and knowing the past became instrumentalized and diagrammatically expressed after 1950, and as remote sensing and other visual prosthetics became more commonplace.
All of this work fits within Balm’s broader field of interest in the scopic regimes of science, particularly during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to publications, this interest has translated into fieldwork (in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Malta, and Jordan) that attempted to replicate nineteenth-century observational and visual recording techniques through vantage-point reconstruction and the use of photography and drawing. Such replication can provide valuable insights into the priorities and thought processes of early scientific travellers, and provide fresh perspectives on the modes and motives of expeditionary illustration.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
Visual culture; geography; archaeology; history of science.