Background and Philosophy
of the Project

The world where we and the Maring once met now exists only in our memories. We see the photographs through these memories...
...and within the following context.

Thirty-five years ago, we were a young, newly-married couple, seeing the Maring world with our own eyes and beginning a life-long involvement with anthropology. The photographs we took are an unchanging record of that moment in the past - a moment of meeting between people of different cultures.

Since then, the Maring children we knew have grown up and become parents, and we have become grandparents. The world where we once met now exists only in our memories. We see the photographs through these memories, memories which our children and grandchildren and the children of our New Guinea friends do not have. They will look at our photographs through eyes different from our own.

Anthropological perspectives have also changed since the 1960's, opening our eyes to new ways of seeing the photographs. The photographs themselves do not change, but as the world changes, they take on new meanings.

By using the developing Internet technology to share these by-now-historical photographs and the memories and thoughts surrounding them, we hope to generate dialogue with interested people inside and outside Papua New Guinea and especially with the young Maring of today.

This project, Maring Interactive, is the result of a convergence of traditional ethnography, visual research, and interactive media. It is one example of the anthropology of visual communication, a field drawing more and more interest at a time when visual media have become central to both global and local cultures.
The foundation for the project was laid in the 1960's when Allison and Marek Jablonko joined a research team from Columbia University studying "The Human Ecology of the New Guinea Rain Forest".

They spent a year among the Maring of the Simbai Valley, returning with notes, maps, 62,000 feet of 16mm film, and more than 10,000 35mm still photographs. These recorded the way of life of a people whose traditional horizon was just being breached by various outside influences, not the least of which were the anthropologists themselves.

In the decades that followed, the data collected by the team were published in the traditional form of articles, dissertations, and a book, and in the not quite traditional form of two films and an educational television series. All these expressed the understandings which various team members had gained from working among the Maring. Meanwhile, in 1975, the Maring became citizens of the newly independent nation of Papua New Guinea.

In 1992 the possibilities of interactive media for uniting images and text, both for study and presentation, came to the Jablonko's attention. This new medium promised increased ease in combining photographs and accompanying texts for archival use. Coupled with the Web, the resulting synthesis of images and words could now also be made accessible to anyone in the world where Internet is available.

With wider, interactive distribution, it is hoped that images previously relegated to university libraries or the anthropologist's closet, can become part of a broader mutual history, involving not only researchers and students at every level, but also deepening the particular understanding of the families most personally involved in these photographs - our own and the families of our Maring friends.



    Copyright 1999-2011 Allison Jablonko. All Rights Reserved.