Copyright Photo Arts Magazine

Visual anthropology is a fast-growing specialist area, and attracts many new students each year. The increased use of media technologies for communication and education purposes, business, and political agendas has led to the growth of a massive industry. Students who choose to specialise in visual anthropology often supplement their degree with training in filmmaking, visual technologies, or multimedia techniques. Visual anthropologists may work as independent filmmakers, set up their own businesses, or work as consultants for major TV and film productions. They may also find work as curators in museums, art galleries, or cultural institutions that have visual collections, or businesses working on marketing strategies that incorporate visual elements.

There are many opportunities within the media sector where anthropologists can apply their knowledge in creative ways. However, finding paid work can be extremely competitive and making a name for oneself can take time, patience, and a great deal of networking. To increase your chances of finding a job, it is important to gain voluntary or work experience that will improve your skills and expose you to new dimensions of the field. Film festivals, screenings, photographic and art exhibitions are excellent opportunities to be inspired by people’s work, meet other anthropologists, and discover new work possibilities.


Recommended Resources

Visit our Visual Anthropology webpage


The following trailer gives a brief overview of the diversity of roles that can be found in the media industry.

An anthropological introduction to YouTube was presented at the Library of Congress on June 23rd 2008 by anthropologist Micheal Wesch.



The Anthropology of Media: A Reader by: Askew, K. and Wilk, R. (Eds) (Blackwell, 2002)

Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain by: Ginsburg, F.,  Abu-Lughod, L. Larkin, B. (Eds) (University of California Press, 2002)

Careers in Media and Film: The Essential Guide by: Gregory, G. Healy, J.R.,  Mazierksa, E. (Sage, 2008)

Media Directory 2007 The Essential Handbook by: Janine Gibson (Guardian Newspapers Ltd, 2007)



Online papers downloadable free of charge are available from


General - contains news and resources for anyone interested in visual anthropology. - Documentary Educational Resources produce, distribute and promote ethnographic and documentary films from around the world. - A website which explores how humans use media, how media uses us, and how we can use new media to reveal our insights in new ways.


Recruitment - The media section of the Guardian online. - uses the power of film and video to reach the world’s most vulnerable communities with messages that inspire them, address their critical shared needs, and effect social change. - News and Resources for Visual Anthropology.


Professional Organisations, Groups and Societies

British Film Institute - promotes understanding and appreciation of Britain's rich film and television heritage.

European Association of Social Anthropologists Visual Anthropology Network - a network aiming to cover all aspects of visual anthropology

The Media Anthropology Network, European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), aims to foster international discussion and collaboration around the anthropology of media. The network also hopes to contribute to the theoretical and empirical development of this anthropological subfield.

International Visual Sociology Association – promotes the study, production and use of visual images, data and materials in teaching, research and applied activities.

Nordic Anthropological Film Association – an organization focused on anthropological documentary film.

Royal Anthropological Institute - has one of Europe’s largest collections of ethnographic films and archival photographs. The Institute organises festivals and events, and distributes films for teaching and learning purposes.

Society for Visual Anthropology – the SVA is a section of the American Anthropological Association, aiming to promote the study of visual representation and media.


Disclaimer: The above information is provided for information and guidance only. It should not be interpreted as endorsement or otherwise by the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) for any external institution listed.  Furthermore, the RAI accepts no responsibility for material created by external parties or the content of external websites.