A decentered lens: colonial photography and the right to the real

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper focuses the Robert Hart photography collection, a little-known collection of historical photography of China held at Queen’s University Belfast. Like many such collections, the photography accumulated by the Irishman Robert Hart during his half-century as a British imperial administrator in China resists easy categorisation, and sits uneasily between coloniser and colonised, Europe and Asia, native and foreign, imperial and anti-imperial.

The plural histories of coloniality in both Ireland and China present possibilities for thinking about the historical and curatorial decolonisation of photography. Drawing on cultural criticism including Nicholas Mirzoeff’s idea of the ‘right to look’, I’m going to explore how scholars and curators can think about the right to look in relation to colonial photography, and what the right to look might enable us to see.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2023
EventCollecting, Colonialism, and Empire: Working with archives and museum collections in Northeast England and Northern Ireland - Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 May 202312 May 2023


ConferenceCollecting, Colonialism, and Empire
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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