Dr Elisa deCourcy is an art historian, specialising in the nineteenth-century history of photography. She holds a competitive Australian Research Council DECRA fellowship. Her DECRA project ‘Capturing Foundational Australian Photography in a Globalising World’ (April 2020 - December 2023) reconsiders the arrival of photography to the Australian colonies and how the technology was experienced during its mid-century decades of practice. It combines archival research, practice-led investigation and consultation with First Nations Communities on heritage collections of colonial photography.
In 2018, Elisa was independently awarded a Harry Ransom Fellowship from the University of Texas at Austin and an Australian Academy of Humanities Publishing Subsidy Award. Both of these grants contributed to an extended book project, Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle: the global career of showman daguerreotypist J.W. Newland, co-authored with Martyn Jolly and released by Routledge in 2021. Elisa's work has been published in leading photography journals internationally including, History of Photography; Photography and Culture and Early Popular Visual Culture. She has recently collaborated with Kaurna artist, James Tylor on making a daguerreotype portrait for the re-opening of the National Portrait Gallery, London and with artist, Craig Tuffin, on a series of daguerreotype portraits which meditate on seven Australians’ professional and personal connections with historic photography. This series is on tour around regional Australian galleries. Elisa's research has been covered by The Guardian (AU, NZ, and UK), The Smithsonian Magazine and The Conversation. She has been commissioned to write about the photography for The National Portrait Gallery, London; Musée du quai Branly, Paris and the National Gallery of Victoria.
Elisa is currently working on a monograph about early photography in colonial Australia which has been contracted by Melbourne University Press.
Nineteenth and early twentieth-century photography, particularly systems of photographic transmission, and photography's creation and consumption alongside other media and modes of portraiture.
Capturing foundational Australian photography in a globalising world (DECRA 2020- December 2023) DE200101322
This project will combine archival research on the foundational years of Australian photography, 1839-54, with new methods of multimedia database design to network early photographs: daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and calotypes, with dispersed manuscripts, journalism and legal proceedings that document their creation. These images are prized by Australian collecting institutions but their significance to our cultural heritage remains unrecognised. This project will analyse how colonial Australian photographers’ distance from Europe prompted them to innovate with processes, materials and apparatuses. It will excavate this neglected dimension of colonial modernity, assessing its resonance for media heritage, culture, and law.
- deCourcy, E 2022, 'Beyond Sentimentality: The Family as Patron, Subject and Author of Early Photography in Colonial Australia', History of Photography, 46:1. online ahead of issue placement: https://doi.org/10.1080/03087298.2022.2113245
- deCourcy, E 2022, '[Review] Photography's Materialities: Transatlantic Photographic Practices over the Long Nineteenth Century ed. by Geoff Bender and Rasmus R. Simonsen', Technology and Culture, vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 1223-1225.
- deCourcy, E 2022, 'How recreating early daguerreotype photographs gave us a window to the past', The Conversation, 17 February 2022 / Peta Pixel International Photography Magazine 19 February 2022 pp. Online.
- deCourcy, E 2021, Review: "The Business of Photography at Sydney University's new Chau Chak Wing Museum", Australian Book Review, 11 March 2021.
- deCourcy, E & Jolly, M 2021, Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle: The Global Career of Showman Daguerreotypist J.W. Newland, Routledge, Abingdon.
- deCourcy, E & Jolly, M 2020, Portrait of Hemi Pômare as a young man: how we uncovered the oldest surviving photograph of a Mâori, pp. The Conversation 30 June 2020; Re-reported in The Smithsonian 1 July 2020.
- Jolly, M & deCourcy, E, eds, 2020, The Magic Lantern at Work: Witnessing, Persuading, Experiencing and Connecting, Routledge, New York.
- Jolly, M & deCourcy, E 2020, 'The Circus and the Magic Lantern: A Portfolio of Hand-Painted Mechanical Magic Lantern Slides', in Anna-Sophie Jürgens (ed.), Circus, Science and Technology: Dramatising Innovation, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 123-141.
- deCourcy, E 2019, 'Mapping with a Car and a Camera: Ralph Bagnold in the Libyan Desert', Photography and Culture, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 109-112
- deCourcy, E & V Finney 2019, 'Animating the hand of the scientist: women colourists at the Australian Museum in the early twentieth century', Early Popular Visual Culture, vol. 17, no. 2. pp.386-396
- deCourcy, E & Jolly, M 2018, 'Heritage in the Limelight, a Collection in Progress: uncovering, connecting, researching and animating Australia's magic lantern past', Open Library of the Humanities, Special Edition: Remaking Collections, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 1-25.
- deCourcy, E 2018, 'Magic Lantern Culture as a Challenge to Area Studies: mobility, recombination and experimentation', in Nakajima, Pickering & Zhang (ed.), Papers from the 2018 PKU-ANU-Tokyo Winter Institute, University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy Press, Tokyo, pp. 81-88.
- deCourcy, E 2017, 'The Dreadnought Hoax portrait as an Affront to the Edwardian Age', Early Popular Visual Culture, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 405-424