University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

African Photography: The Ethics of Looking and Collecting in the Age of Restitution

November 11, 2022

Since the 1990s, exhibitions of African photographers such as Seydou Keïta have raised questions about the relationship of ownership to authorship, visibility to privacy. Concerns about the ethics of looking and collecting have grown more urgent with recent debates about the restitution of African cultural heritage. 


This online symposium draws together scholars, artists, and curators who explore the ethics of working with photographs and methods to decolonize the medium, and its histories. 


What rights do photographers have? In today's age of hypervisibility, can sitters claim their "right to opacity," to use Édouard Glissant's term? What is the future of collecting and curating photographs that originate in family and colonial archives on the continent? Can viewers embody “the active struggle of looking with,” in Tina Campt’s words - rather than observe passively - and can this engender new ways of seeing?  




Keynote Temi Odumosu (University of Washington) 
Welcome David Freedberg (Columbia University) and Douglas Fordham (University of Virginia) 
Concluding Remarks Steven Nelson (National Gallery of Art) 



Presented by

The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University
Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
Department of Art, University of Virginia


With the generous support of

Buckner W. Clay Endowment for the Humanities, University of Virginia
Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, University of Virginia
UVA Arts & the Office of the Provost & the Vice Provost for the Arts
The Carter G. Woodson Institute, University of Virginia
The Institute of African Studies, Columbia University
The Department of African American & African Diaspora Studies, Columbia University
Photography Network   


And with a grant from

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM