An early example of the manner in which photography was inscribed with evidential power are the two photographs of the Atala Masjid at Jaunpur, taken by D. Tresham and Beglar, through which Cunningham chose to make his point that the “new” work, or the repairs that were authorised by him for the Masjid, was “a strict repetition of the older portion” of the “highly decorated propylon” (Cunningham 1880, plates 35 and 36, and p. 108). Such publications, of photographs showing monuments before and after they were restored, verified the ‘success’ of the myriad restoration projects, which the British undertook within India. Under Marshall, to whom one may credit the direction and expansion of archaeological conservation, and its relatively long period of uninterrupted implementation, a genre of imagery was established through such photographs. By disseminating this genre widely through the Survey’s annual reports (Figures 23–26), it was used to highlight Marshall’s own achievements, of preserving the archaeological ‘heritage’ of India. On the eve of India’s independence Marshall unhesitatingly asserted his claim to his achievement by pointing out that the Indians “are now thoroughly alive to the value of their national heirlooms and at the same time genuinely appreciative of the Government’s efforts to preserve them” (1939, p. 32). Investigating the visual economies (for a definition see Poole 1997) through which the Survey’s photographs have participated in the making of ‘national monuments’ and ‘architectural heritage’ for India holds relevance now, in the wake of global tourism, rampant demolitions of historical monuments, and the rising clamour for a ‘nationalist’ archaeology within the country.
There are many photographs like the one of the Surya temple at Martand (Figure 27) taken by a commercial photographer, William Baker, which were absorbed within the D.G.A.’s collection that Marshall initiated. Their presence within a distinguishing archive clearly demonstrates why the evidential power of a photograph usually lies within its relationship with “the beholder, or user” (Olin 2002, p. 112), rather than within the subject of its imagery. For, the imagery here is bereft of any archaeological activity, although, through archiving, the photograph could be positioned to offer references for the Survey’s work. Fig: 25 Considering that meaningful representations are usually attributed for the archaeological, and not always through fieldwork alone, the making of collections and archives such as Marshall’s, permits and facilitates the imposition of identities on many photographs not ostensibly taken for, or during archaeological work. Yet, the above example also makes us aware of the extent to which we endow photographs with identities by making them participate within processes of knowledge formation. For, photographs defy space and time, and, as Geoffrey Batchen reminds us, they Fig: 26 are “animated by a social dimension [and] a dynamic web of exchanges and functions, that gives them a grounded but never static identity” (2002, p. 78). Therefore, even when the informational value of an archaeologist’s, e.g. Wheeler, field photographs may appear to us as fixed, their evidential values are not because such testimonies bear “not on the object but on time” (Barthes 2000, p. 89).