Dr Elisa deCourcy

BA (Hons. I) PhD
Research Fellow (DECRA), Centre for Art History and Art Theory, Research School of Humanities and the Arts
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Research interests

History of photography (19th and 20th century); nineteeth-century colonial art (south Pacific focus); archives and colonial knowledge; art and museum practices and decolonisation. 


Dr Elisa deCourcy is an art historian and curator, specialising in the 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.

In 2023 she was one of twelve international early-career fellows selected for the Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome's photography intensive and an invited speaker at the Bodleian Library, at the University of Oxford. Elisa is currently working on a monograph about early photography in colonial Australia which has been contracted by Melbourne University Press.

Researcher's projects

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,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.


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  27 May 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers