Image & Identity: views from Ceylon and Oxfordshire in early colonial photographs

Poster for the "Image & Identity" exhibition, with black-and-white photographs of two women in outdoor formal wear and straw hats

Find out more about the Image & Identity exhibition here.

The Image & Identity exhibition has been curated by Shalini Amerasinghe Ganendra, cultural scholar with expertise in the understanding of early colonial photography from Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka). The exhibition aims to build awareness of the fluidity of visual perspectives, using colonial period photography as a springboard for contemporary discussions and explorations. We consider early images, as well as other colonial period documentation from Sri Lanka (the Pitt Rivers Museum collections) and Oxfordshire (from the Underhill Collection held by MOX).

Images of  contemporary works by established Sri Lankan artist, Sujeewa Kumari, extend the theme of links between image, impression and time, specifically referring to colonial photography and inviting us to consider how we see those photographed people and places today.


Image & Identity - A View

Across contrasting historical contexts, this thought-provoking exhibition prompts the visitor to consider themes of representation and authority. By juxtaposing early colonial photography from Ceylon and scenes from early twentieth-century Oxfordshire, the curator invites viewers to rethink how the photographic form depicts and projects diverse subjects and power relations.

The spare curatorial style leaves space for the visitor to interpret the images on their own terms. From formal photographs of colonial officials to family portraits in early twentieth-century Oxfordshire, what binds the exhibition is a thematic preoccupation with social representation. Uninhibited by the strictures of linear organisation, the exhibition has a freeform quality which enables the visitor simultaneously to think about, for example, colonial rule and officialdom, and the modalities of social status and composure. 

I recommend the exhibition to all those who are interested not only in its particular historical contexts, but more broadly in the photographic form and themes of centre and periphery in  the contemporary as well as colonial frameworks.

Review of Image & Identity Exhibition by Dr. Jack Hepworth, Faculty of History  


Images from the exhibition: 

nuneham picnic july 15 1915 3

Nuneham picnic, 15 July 1915


maggie shakespeare wolv bridge lashes aug 1915 5

Maggie Shakespeare wolv. bridge lashes, August 1915


lady hilda obeysekere

Lady Hilda Obeysekere


Oxford and Empire Network 


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