“Photography and China’s Early Emancipation Movement”
by Xenia Piëch
This presentation explores the role of photography in the circulation and visualization of China’s early emancipation movement. Photography has been a key visual medium for the (de-) construction of gendered personhoods in China’s quest for modernization. Courtesans were the earliest female adopters of photography, using it to demarcate or enhance their status, flaunting their modernity through the espousal of this ostensibly new and exotic medium. With the advent of print and the rise of women’s magazines, emancipatory ideas found their visual incarnations in the form of printed photographic portraits of some of the movements leading female proponents such as Qiu Jin秋瑾 (1875 – 1907) and Lü Bicheng吕碧城 (1883-1943. Both women spent a considerable amount of time in Japan during the early 1900s. At the same time, even the ostensibly traditionalist Empress Dowager Cixi 慈禧太后 (1835- 1908) had her photographic likeness taken and allowed for its public circulation. It is speculated that she was inspired by a black-and-white portrait of Queen Victoria and urged by one of her Paris educated ladies-in-waiting. By allowing these photographs to be publicly circulated, Cixi effectively broke with the centuries-old morally imposed doctrine of female concealment, allowing respectable elite women to breach the inner chambers (guixiu). Having one’s photographic portrait circulated in the burgeoning pictorial press became an acceptable form for these women to enter the public sphere and thus publicise their modern, even emancipated, status. Based on these images, this presentation will analyze the way in which the circulation of photographic portraits constructed, enabled, defined and queried the changing female gendered identity during the late Qing and early Republican period, revealing one aspect of the highly nuanced, intricate and multidimensional development of the complex construct that was to be the “new Chinese woman”.
“From Traveling Images to Traveling Bodies: Korean War Orphans in Hollywood and the Rhetoric of Interracial Adoption”
by Jung Joon Lee
Orphans were the subjects of a large number of photographs taken by U.N. military unit photographers during the Korean War. Since then, photographs of Korean War orphans have been reproduced regularly for the purpose of commemorating the war, and, more specifically following the armistice, to raise awareness of war orphans with the intent of promoting interracial adoption. Lee’s paper explores a series of photographs from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) chronicling 25 Korean War orphans, who were chosen to appear in a 1957 American film, Battle Hymn. The paper examines how the traveling photographs–from Korea to California to NARA–do not just document the making of the film but create a narrative, separate from that of the film, of the traveling bodies, potential adoptees to American families. Those photographs indeed share many similarities with photographs of Korean War orphan turned adoptees also archived in NARA. Even more so than the film itself, the photographs of the traveling orphans tell us about U.S. military propaganda at the dawn of the Cold War and ultimately about the rhetoric of interracial adoption in its early stage.
“Developing Photographs and Networks: Images of the Japanese Embassy in the United States, 1860”
by Stella Jungmann
Between the forceful opening of the Japanese ports through the Harris Treaty in 1858 and the restoration of imperial rule under Emperor Meiji in 1868, Japan was in political unrest, resulting in a tense and often dangerous situation for those who were connected to or associated with foreign (Western) powers. Simultaneously the U.S. experienced political struggle, as the secessionists threatened the union of the states, resulting in the Civil War fought between 1861 and 1865. In this heated time, in which both nations redefined national identity, networks between these nations were established in order to promote political and commercial opportunities.
In 1860 two steamships, the Kanrin Maru and the USS Powhatan carrying Shogunate officials, traveled from Japan to San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York. Resulting from this mission was a series of photographs taken both on the East and West Coast, portraying the members of the embassy, the ceremony of welcome, and the objects and presents brought by the diplomats. Both the photo objects and the way in which photographing was described in newspapers and journal articles, reveal the role photography played amidst the growing relations between Japan and the U.S. in the 1860s.
Through careful investigation of the salted paper prints and albumen prints taken by Mathew Brady, along with the stereographs published by E. & H.T. Anthony in New York, I hope to find out what role photographs played – whether they were used as agents to translate to the general public a seemingly “exotic” or “unknown” culture, or whether they acted against preconceived notions of Japan as an uncivilized nation (as characterized in newspapers such as Harper’s Weekly).
While previous research used these photographs simply as images documenting the diplomatic event, my new approach focuses on the photographic objects as sociograms (Bourdieu 2004), as an acknowledgement of Japanese social and political order. This article analyzes photography as a social performance, from the installation of the camera all the way to the selling of the resulting photograph. Furthermore, the way in which these photographs were used – as commercial merchandise, as models for images printed in newspapers – allows us to critically consider how photographic depictions shaped the way in which this event was received by the U.S.-American general public, specifically how photographers, politicians, and the media hoped to present this encounter.
“Picturing the sacred: Yasu Kohei and his photographic reproductions of religious images in Guatemala ”
by Ping-Heng Chen
It may seem like the sacred images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints unite the Catholic world in an essentially identical devotional practice. However, as religious images travel across the world via printed media, local appropriations provide evidence of aesthetic and social contexts at particular junctures of cultures and temporalities. Based on the photographic archive of Yasu Kohei (1846-1917), this paper explores the role that photography played in introducing objects derived from a global and modernizing Catholic visuality into the Guatemalan veneration of saint sculptures at the turn of the 20th century. Also known by his Spanish name Juan José de Jesús Yas, Yasu was one of the earliest Japanese migrants to Guatemala and a pioneer photographer in this country. Whereas most of his colleagues oriented their trade toward upscale and international markets, Yasu combined local and global Catholic iconographies to inexpensive prints that he marketed to the popular classes. Yasu’s transcultural reproductions of pious imagery reverberated with the Church’s desire to recruit the new medium for expanding the faith. By examining Yasu’s work on saint sculptures, priests’ portraits, and prayer cards, this paper addresses the intersection of translocal religious knowledge, photography, and situated devotional practice.
“From Snapshots to Cultural Propaganda: The Formation of Persian Architectural Photographs, 1925-1935 ”
by Yuka Kadoi
This paper reassesses the role of photography in the process of reshaping images of Islamic Iranian architecture during the early 20th century. The discussion of this paper is concerned with the period between the late 1920s and early 1930s when the architectural landscape and cultural heritage of Iran attracted a number of charismatic individuals, such as Arthur Upham Pope (1881-1969), Andrè Godard (1881-1965), Eric Schroeder (1904-1971), Myron Bement Smith (1897-1970), Erich Schmidt (1897-1964), to name just a few. Each of them played a pivotal role in the advancement of architectural studies in the field of Islamic monuments in Iran, interwoven with the reshaping of socio- cultural fabrics and self-consciousness that radically took place in Iran during a thriving period of the Pahlavi regime. Yet the most important endeavor was initiated by Pope, who conducted the photographic documentation of medieval Iranian architecture for his monumental Survey of Persian Art (1938-9) as well as for his less-known but important series of propagandistic exhibitions of Persian architecture in the 1930s. The latter particularly explored the potential of photographs as visual manifestations of ideal architectural forms and styles as well as two-dimensional displays for the general public and research resources for students.
At the ages of digital media in the 21st century, the architectural photographs and exhibitions of the first decades of the 20th century may not exert the same visual merit and social impact as it was the case with the pre-war period. Yet a particular image of medieval Islamic Iranian architecture that was steadily formed in the late 1920s and early 1930s continues to shape our current understanding as to how Persian architecture ought to look like, and the proposed paper elaborates on this process.
“Old Surabaya – New Surabaya: Photography and the Making of the Colonial City”
by Sophie Junge
Images of the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) have been legitimizing Dutch colonial activity since the 17th century. Especially in the 1800s, photography was used to repress indigenous populations and to demonstrate Dutch authority on the archipelago. Nevertheless, it was not photography but the reproduction of photographic images that made the colony visible to the outside world. Throughout the 19th century only few local studios took pictures of the Dutch East Indies and even fewer photo albums travelled back to the Netherlands. Retired colonial staff would return to their home country with photo albums, however, these photographs only stayed in the private space of the family. It was not until the introduction of mass-reproduced images around 1900 that the visibility of the colony drastically increased.
Provincial cities like colonial Surabaya – located far away from the Dutch capital Batavia – did not have a specific visual place-image before 1900. Even though the city was Java’s economic center at that time, Surabaya lacked the symbolic national relevance of Batavia. The paper examines the emergence and circulation of Surabaya’s visual repertoire around 1900. On picture postcards, in illustrated magazines and travel guidebooks images of the city reached broad audiences within the colony and beyond its borders. They give insight into the meaning of colonial space and the photographic image around 1900.
Photographs of colonial space need to be discussed in their specific visual or textual framing, which combines photographic imagery with graphic designs and textual information. Within these publication contexts, especially photographs of colonial cities – often taken in the 1880s and 1890s – were reproduced for decades until well into the 1930s. What does the long lifespan of these image say about their representation and their reception? How did the publication contexts change in the 1920s when Dutch colonial power was threatened by the growing Indonesian National Movement? This text focuses on the context in which these images appeared in order to shed light on the creation of a specific canon of images, the reception of colonial urbanity in the beginning of the 20th century and its meaning in terms of Dutch and Indonesian national identity.
“Ethnography to Art: ‘Japanische Ringer, Nach der Natur’”
by Christina Thurman-Wild
In 1885 artist Joseph Dwight Strong Jr. captured the moment of Japanese initiation into the world of Hawaiian sugar production in his painting “Japanese Laborers on Spreckelsville Plantation”. The same group of Japanese depicted by Strong were also photographed in a series of images by Eduard Christian Arning during a week of festivities and events introducing the new group of laborers for the benefit of the local residents at the Honolulu Immigration Depot. Unlike Strong’s painting however, which travelled westwards to the Emperor of Japan, Arning’s collection of photographs returned with him eastwards, to Hamburg and Berlin. Among his collection of over 300 ethnographic objects acquired during his time as a physician and bacteriologist employed by the Hawaiian Government, Arning also produced and acquired a collection of over 237 negative plates in the mid-1880s (the largest photographic collection from the period outside of Hawai’i, including images from both professional and amateur photographers of Hawai’i). In this presentation, we will trace the travel and changing contexts and meanings of a single photograph of the newly arrived Japanese (Japanische Ringer, Nach der Natur) from the local framing of the Japanese at the Immigration Depot in Honolulu, to their visual representation by an amateur-ethnographer and disease specialist, to their recontextualization within his ethnographic collection, and later integration into art photography collections and exhibitions in Hamburg. The changing contexts and meaning of the image, thus also raise themes in the history of transnational movements of peoples, concepts and images: the shifting framings of the immigrant laborer in ethnographic and artistic contexts, the role of the ‘amateur-ethnographer’ in the transnational visuality of the Pacific, and the relationships between sport, medicine, and the iconography of the (immigrant) laborer.
“Circulation, Appropriation, Redefinition – The History of Songea Mbano’s Portrait”
by Eliane Kurmann
Historical photographs that originated in Africa’s colonial period circulated over time in various spaces and media forms and were published and displayed for multiple reasons. In Tanzania’s post-colonial context, photographs are again appropriated, redefined and utilised in various ways – this I will illustrate with a short history of different uses of Songea Mbano’s portrait.
The famous portrait of Songea Mbano is exhibited in many Tanzanian museums and published in schoolbooks, commemoration booklets and on websites to remember a martyr who lost his life in the resistance to German colonial rule. The caption of the huge photograph exhibited in the Tanzania National Museum refers undoubtedly to a hero: “The famous Sub-chief Songea Lwafu Mbano, from whom the town of Songea derives its name 1906.”
When this photograph had been published for the first time, it depicted an “ethnographic type” of the Mngoni, according to its caption. Friedrich Fülleborn published this photograph 1902 in his book about the physical anthropology of the Nord-Nyassa-Länder. While working as explorer and military physician assigned to the German military troop in the southwest of the former colony German East Africa from 1897 to 1901, Fülleborn had gathered physical-anthropological material – in other words, he measured people in detail and pictured their bodies. In this publication, he offered the results and photographs for further investigation to other researchers.
In the late 19th century, photography became a popular instrument of the newly developing science of physical anthropology. Arguably representing objectivity and the truthful depiction of physical characteristics, the photographs served in the construction of “race” and “types” – or more generally: as anthropological data in the production of ‘colonial knowledge’. Standardized depiction of faces and bodies in frontal and profile poses should allow measurement of physical characteristics and direct comparison of pictures. So called type photographs depict people considered to be representative of a whole “ethnic group” or a “tribe”. Together with hundreds of other Africans, Songea Mbano is presented in Fülleborns book as object of anthropological studies and race theories.
In one context Songea Mbano’s photograph shows a typical representative of the “Wangoni-people”, and in another, the portrait of a hero; once the photograph shows the individuality of an outstanding personality, and once it depicts the average of the pictured body, whose characteristics is supposed to represent an entire group.
Obviously, the meaning of a photograph is not inherent, but rather changing with the context in which the photograph is used. The analysis of their various uses in the past and present to decrypt the photographs in both the colonial and post-colonial context also focuses on changing material features. It becomes apparent that the photograph’s characteristics of being reproducible in different material and media forms reinforces their circulation over time and spaces, and, moreover, it is a requirement of being appropriated, redefined and utilized for telling diffrent (hi)stories.