Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in Bali: Their Use of Photography and Film
Author(s): Ira Jacknis
Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 3, No. 2 (May, 1988), pp. 160-177
In 1939 Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead returned from three years of research in Bali and New Guinea, where they had innovated in their use of photography and film as ethnographic media. A world at war soon drew them away to other concerns, but not before they had produced a photographic ethnography in 1942. Around 1950 Mead returned to the material, assembling another photographic study and a series of six films.
Although in its time Bateson and Mead's Balinese work was greeted with some puzzlement, by now these books and films have achieved the status of classics. In many ways they began the field of visual anthropology, and to this day there is little that can be compared to their work. Despite this landmark status,
their project has been subjected to surprisingly little reconsideration (Collier 1967:5-6; de Brigard 1975:26-27; Heider 1976:27-30). As the first extended treatment of their use of photography and film in Bali, this essay offers a historical overview of their project, and then turns to a consideration of one out of the many
relevant theoretical issues-the objectivity of their record.' Though involved mainly with a visual medium, Bateson and Mead faced the same problems of representation as their colleagues relying solely on words. Thus, this essay will trace their process of turning "raw" field notes into finished ethnographies (Clifford and Marcus 1986)