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Colonial Photography Across Empires and Islands

Author(s): Mark Rice

Journal: Journal of Transnational American Studies
ISSN 1940-0764

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Puerto Rico | Philippines | Photography | Colonial Photography | Colonialism

When the US acquired its colonies of Puerto Rico and the Philippines in the aftermath of the 1898 war with Spain, those colonies had to be made known to American citizens. Lanny Thompson has described what he calls the “principle narratives” of the different colonies, and the ways that those narratives helped shape political debates about those colonies. Thompson notes that photography played an instrumental role in developing and representing those narratives. “Colonial Photography Across Empires and Islands” discusses the specific uses of photography in the US colonial regimes in the Philippines and Puerto Rico, the two colonies most frequently deemed “unfit” for self-rule. It traces the contours of those themes and ideas that were shared across the different colonies, as well as the particular subject matter that photographers were attracted to in each colony. It also finds points of connection and continuity between US colonial photography, and photography in the Philippines in the Spanish colonial era. The triangulation of these three colonial contexts helps clarify both the generalized nature of colonial photography and the specific uses of photography in particular colonial contexts.
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