By Sophie Junge, University of Zürich/Leiden University. Images from the Dutch East Indies have been legitimizing Dutch colonial activity since the 17th century.Especially 19th century-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 a place to be seen. 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 in the luggage of retired colonial staff to stay 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.
The seminar examines the medial and trans-colonial circulation of printed photographic images on picture postcards, in illustrated magazines and travel guidebooks that reached broad audiences within the colony and beyond its borders. These images, often produced by a transnational network of photo studios, printers and publishers, give insight in the meaning of colonial space and the meaning of the photographic image around 1900. In extending postcolonial research on representations of indigenous “Others,” the paper argues that photographs of colonial space could only be understood in specific visual or textual framings, which combined existing photographic imagery with European postcarddesigns, Art Nouveau decorations and/or textual information. The paper analyses representations of colonial space to find out more about the creation of a specific canon of images, the reception of colonialism in the beginning of the 20th century and its meaning in terms of Dutch national identity.
Dr. Sophie Junge works at the Centre for Studies in the Theory and History of Photography at the Institute of Art History of the University of Zürich. Currently, she is also affiliated at Leiden University as a research fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation to prepare a Postdoc project on photographic images from the Dutch East Indies after 1900. Her book Art Against AIDS. Nan Goldin’s Exhibition Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing has been published in 2016.
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