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Photography and Social Life: An Ethnography of Chinese Amateur Photography Online

Yang, Yunchang; (2020) Photography and Social Life: An Ethnography of Chinese Amateur Photography Online. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This dissertation explores the ‘middle-brow’ (Bourdieu, 1990) photography practices of contemporary Chinese people in the digital era and how they produce, circulate, and consume photographic images on and off the Internet. Through participant observation and interviews with Chinese photo hobbyists and professionals working in the visual-Internet industry based in London, Beijing, or in the virtual world, it asks how the marriage between photography and the Internet in China has been similar to, or distinct from, its counterparts in the rest of the world, consolidating a vernacular photo-scape that has emerged alongside China’s booming Internet economy and socio-economic transformation over the past forty years. The research further addresses the agencies of both individuals and images, which determine what people want from photography in today’s China and what photography wants from this new networked, mediated society. The dissertation moves across persons, communities, organisations, and real and virtual sites, making it a multi-sited ethnography that traces social relations and ‘the circulation of cultural meanings, objects, and identities in diffuse time-space’ (Marcus, 1995: 96). The thesis presents a panoramic picture of the everyday practices carried out by Chinese amateur photographers, who are often imagined and categorised as the country’s middle class. The study focuses on two main aspects. The first is the activity of amateur photography, including the conspicuous consumption of photographic equipment and participation in relevant events, as well as social behaviours on and off of Internet photography platforms. The second involves the judgement and appreciation of photographic images on sites such as Tuchong, focusing on various kinds of aesthetic strategies around and within photographic images. The combination of the two has helped photo hobbyists in China to shape their values, career paths, and new identities in the context of digitalisation and the rise of social media.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Photography and Social Life: An Ethnography of Chinese Amateur Photography Online
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
Keywords: Visual Culture, Social Anthropology, Photography, Chinese Studies, Digital Anthropology
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10112297
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