The Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) is a section of the American Anthropological Association. We promote the study of visual representation and media. Both research methods and teaching strategies fall within the scope of the society. SVA members are involved in all aspects of production, dissemination, and analysis of visual forms. Works in film, video, photography, and computer-based multimedia explore signification, perception, and communication-in-context, as well as a multitude of other anthropological and ethnographic themes.
Founded in 1984, the Society for Visual Anthropology promotes the use of images for the description, analysis, communication and interpretation of human [and sometimes nonhuman) behavior. Members have interests in all visual aspects of culture, including art, architecture and material artifacts, as well as kinesics, proxemics and related forms of body motion communication (e.g. gesture, emotion, dance, sign language).
The Society encourages the use of media, including still photography, film, video and non-camera generated images, in the recording of ethnographic, archaeological and other anthropological genres. Members examine how aspects of culture can be pictorially/visually interpreted and expressed, and how images can be understood as artifacts of culture. Historical photographs, in particular, are seen as a source of ethnographic data, expanding our horizons beyond the reach of memory culture. The society also supports the study of indigenous media and their grounding in personal, social, cultural and ideological contexts, and how anthropological productions can be exhibited and used more effectively in classrooms, museums and television.
SVA acts as an advocate for visual representation. A resolution promoting the use of visual media to satisfy tenure and promotion requirements was sponsored and written by the SVA and accepted by the AAA. To see the full text of the resolution, click here: svaresolution2002.pdf
The Society for Visual Anthropology offers a core focus for all of anthropology. We welcome contributions from linguists and archaeologists, as well as physical and cultural anthropologists. Come join us.
* About Peter Biella’s photograph: “Mama Toreto helps with the transcription of a song I recorded, twenty-seven years before, in which she commemorates the birth of her granddaughter. She is overwhelmed by the memories that her singing evokes. “I had no idea what you were doing then,” she told me. Her co-wife sits behind” (Peter Biella). (First Place, American Anthropological Association Photo Contest, 2008)
Of this photo, Amy Goldenberg, Production Editor of Anthropology News wrote, “Your photo Mama Toreto was selected as the First Place Winner in the photo contest, from 294 entries received. The review committee found this image quite powerful, was impressed with the composition and content of the shot, and noted its technical excellence. We found that it communicated an important message about the complex nature of anthropological work and the relationships you have formed over time in the field. In addition, your photo Toreto’s Courtyard was selected as a finalist.”