Counterpoint: Anthropology and Photography in New Guinea

06 FEBRUARY 2008, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Austin Supers vivid color photographs feature Papua New Guinea natives as the subjects in Counterpoint: Anthropology and Photography in New Guinea. Accompanying written commentary by anthropologist Stuart Kirsch offers insights into the island’s many cultures and invites the viewer to consider how what is photographed tells us something about our own search for the “exotic.” Counterpoint opens Saturday, February 23 and runs through August 11, 2008 at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Thirty-four enlarged color photographs, many of them close-ups of men, women and children in elaborate costume, face and body decorations, were taken by world-traveler and amateur photographer Austin Super on a three week trip to Papua New Guinea in August, 1988. Mr. Super visited several locations in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea, including Goroko, where he took the majority of his photographs during the annual highlands festival (known in Pidgin English as a “sing-sing”), an event attended by representatives of more than 100 different local ethnic groups celebrating cultural identity, costume, and dance.

Counterpoint is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Super, who died in 1992. After retiring at age 56 from a successful business career in 1980, Mr. Super, with the assistance of his wife Zee, traveled with his camera to such international locales as India, China, Mongolia, Indonesia, Tibet, Thailand and Papua New Guinea. His Papua New Guinea photographs were exhibited in New York city at the Asia Society in 1989 and the Explorers Club in 1990.

Anthropologist Stuart Kirsch provides the text for this exhibition. Dr. Kirsch, who received his doctorate in 1991 from the University of Pennsylvania, carried out ethnographic research in Papua New Guinea, living among the Yonggom (population: 20,000), one of the more than 700 different ethnic groups that populate the country. He is currently associate professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Reverse Anthropology: Indigenous Analysis of Social and Environmental Relations in New Guinea.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, located at 3260 South Streets on the Penn campus in Philadelphia, is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage. For general information, visitors may call (215) 898-4000, or visit the Museum’s award-winning website at


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