Excavating images: a photographic response to an archaeological excavation

Carolyn Lefley

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In 2013 Timespan Heritage Museum in Scotland commissioned photographic artist Carolyn Lefley as their Artist in Residence during the excavation of a longhouse ruin. This paper explores the relationship between photography and archaeology, referencing Lefley’s methodology and photographic output.
This illustrated paper examines the parallels of the process of excavation, of peeling back the layers of earth to reveal evidence of the past and the indexical quality of a photograph to record reality. What is interesting about most excavations is that the site being revealed pre-dates the invention of photography.
Lefley collaborated with archaeologists to make a photographic response to the excavation. Fieldwork was combined with research exploring notions of home, the Highland Clearances (including diaspora and migration), excavating and documenting, art and archaeology. Out of this research and time spent daily at the dig, Lefley made new work using a variety of photographic techniques to create new artefacts that now sit alongside the findings of the excavation in the museum. The paper concludes with a presentation of the photographic output from the excavation. ‘The Diaspora Stones’ are a new collection of pseudo photographic fossils exploring key themes linked to the excavation, including abandonment, home and migration. ‘The Descendants’ are a series of photographic portraits taken at the dig site, which reference the tradition of the human scale in archaeological photography.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
EventAnthropology and Photography conference - British Museum, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 May 201431 May 2014


ConferenceAnthropology and Photography conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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