* ethnograhic imagery ethnographic imagery








Ethnographic Imagery


Figure 1.-- The Arab lands were just one of the areas of areas to ethnifraphic photographers. But it was the only area that rather than just photograph the peoole, the photographers hired people and and staged ethnographic scenes in their studios tomphotograph. Looking at these staged Egyptian ethnographic photos, we can ask how much the photographer's setting shapes the scenes. That was more evident in Orientist art work (engravings and paintungs). For example, here we have an image of an Egyptian Fellahin (peasant) girl with pigeons. She wears only a loincloth. That was not impossible and, strictly speaking, not even against Muslim modesty rules. Anyway it doesn't look so common. How much the engraver's decision determinates the scene? We have found many photos in the late-19th and early-20th century showing shirtless women from North Africa. Were they were all slave women? And did slave women usually go shirtless? Or were the photographers indulging the exotic fashion of the Europeans? The drawing was the work of PFE Giraud--'La fellah aux pigeons'.

From the dawn of Humanity, people have recognized images, images of other people, animals, and places. We see this most notably in European cave art (40,000 BC). Neolitic cave art has also been found in India. Australian aboriginal pictographs are even older (50,000 BC). Studies of animals have proven that some animals react to images, but only humans can create representational art. Some of thus art is mere stick figures, but some of it is great art, the work of what might be called the first great masters. And from this beginning an interest in imagery has bee hard wired into the human mind. Human experience was limited until the modern era. The ability to produce and reproduce those images was very limited. Most people with very few exceptions grew up and lived within a few miles of where they were born. They were inrtigued by stories of far away lands, but there were very few actual images. Some paintings existed but they could be viewed by only a small fraction of the population. A school of art known as orientalism was an artistic form of art. In the era before lithography, few got to see these images. Even with early lithograpgyy, there were limits was to who could afford and see imagery--which was often imaginative. This all changed with photography, especially albumen photograpy which involved negatives (1860). For a small price, people could see and actually possess images of far away lands and the people there. Thus from an early point ethnographic photography came into being. These imahes could be included in scapbooks, a popular activity at the time. Companies began building photographic images and selling steroscopic images for parlor viewing. Most of these comapes offered a range of ethnographic images among their extensive catalog offerings. Photographers as soon as photography was developed begam traveled the world to capture images of exotic lands and diverse people (1850s). This new medium gave adventuresome photographers the opportunity to bring back their work to the image starved populations og Europe and America. the people of these exotic lands were indescribable unless you had actual images. Photography provided this new opportunity. This replaced wild nonsensical desctiptions with the unvariably truthful eye of the modern camera. There were countless ethnograpgic populoations to pursue. Perhaps the most important was orientalism (the Middle East and North America). The Middle East ethnographic photograph was destinct. Rather than just takevphotographs of the local population, photographers especially in Egypt would hire peoole and stage scenes to photograph them in studio settings. A factor here was the speed of the emulsions. Other important regions were: China, India, Africa, and North American Native Americans.

Innante Interest in Imagery

From the dawn of Humanity, people have recognized images, images of other people, animals, and places. We see this most notably in European cave art (40,000 BC). Neolitic cave art has also been found in India. Australian aboriginal pictographs are even older (50,000 BC). Studies of animals have proven that some animals react to images, but only humans can create representational art. Some of thus art is mere stick figures, but some of it is great art, the work of what might be called the first great masters. And from this beginning an interest in imagery has bee hard wired into the human mind. Human experience was limited until the modern era. The ability to produce and reproduce those images was very limited.

Localized Life Style

Most people with very few exceptions grew up and lived within a few miles of where they were born. Unyil the 19th century, modern forms of transport did not exist. Travel was not easyband often dangerois, Only wealthy peoole had the capability od travel The exceptionbwas miligary men abd merchants. But this was a small mpart of the largely peasant population. And for an extended period, the largely peasant population was tied to the land as part of the Feudal system. The interest in foreign lands can be see with sensation created by Italian traveler Marco Polo (13th century).

Pre-Modern Images

People were inrtigued by stories of far away lands, but there were very few actual images. And nost of the images were religious in nature. Thevstained glass windows in Eurooean cathedrals were the narvels of medieval Europe, byt the imagery was all religious. A nother phemonenon wefe the maginficent illuminated (illustrated) Bibles. Some paintings existed but they could be viewed by only a small fraction of the population. There were paintings inclusing fescos in cg=hureches, but this mean that thevavailable imagery was all religious. This began to change with the Renaissance. In the era before lithography, however, few got to see these images. The paintings of the era were all held in privatevcollections, the pissessions of aristicrats or ruch merchants. It was not until after the French Revolution (1789) that wevbegin to see art museums open to the public. But even here, only people in majir cities had access to these images.

Printing

Printing in the West was invented by Johannes Gutenberg (1450s). His press was in operation (140), he completed his famous Bible (1545). Nooks were still expensive, but much less so than earlier. Thisnbegan a revolution in European intelectualmlifr and communication, and was a majorvgactor in Lither's Protestant Regormation (1519). From an eraly point therevwas a desire for imagery, but until the 19thbcentury, lithographic technology was very basic. And with early lithograpgyy, there were limits was to who could afford and see imagery. And what was produced was often imaginative. This was respecially the cases with the cearlynaccounts of navigators and explorers as Europeans vebtured out on the great voyages of discovery (15-16th centuries).

Oreientalism

A school of art known as orientalism was an important genre beginning in the 18th century. Orientalism is tiday deried in our modern politically correct culture. It was a fascination with the East--especially the Muslim Middle East. It was the creation of magines which enphasized, often exagerating the differences between Christian Euripe and the Islamic Middle East and North Africa. Otttomon and Arab culture was depicted as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and even dangerous. Today thatvdoes not sit well with thise whonare obsessed with cultural realatuvity, but was in fact not intirely inaccurate. While Europe by the 19th century had made huge progress in science and industry, the Middle East was largely unchanged for centuries which largely explainsed why the Middle East is such a troubled area today. Orientalism begam to appear with the European Enlightenment (18th century) and expanded with the colonization of the Arab World (19th century). Imagery of the Muslim world, first paintings and than photographybare probbly the most popular of all the ethnographic imagery. Here eroticism was undeniably a factor. This is why the Ottoman.Arab harem is the favored subject of orientalist images.

Photograpahy

This all changed with photography, especially albumen photograpy which involved negatives (1860). For a small price, people could see and actually possess images of far away lands and the people there. Thus from an early point ethnographic photography came into being. These images could be included in scapbooks, a popular activity at the time. Companies began building photographic images and selling steroscopic images for parlor viewing. Most of these comapes offered a range of ethnographic images among their extensive catalog offerings. Photographers as soon as photography was developed begam traveled the world to capture images of exotic lands and diverse people (1850s). This new medium gave adventuresome photographers the opportunity to bring back their work to the image starved populations og Europe and America. the people of these exotic lands were indescribable unless you had actual images. Photography provided this new opportunity. This replaced wild nonsensical depictions with the unvariably acurate eye of the modern camera.

Subject Matter

There were countless ethnograpgic populations to pursue. Perhaps the most important was orientalism (the Middle East and North America). The Middle East ethnographic images were destinct. Rather than just taking photographs of the local population, photographers especially in Egypt would hire peoole and stage scenes to photograph them in studio settings. A factor here was the speed of the emulsions. Photographs could not be taken of moving images. Other important regions were: China, India, Africa, and North American Native Americans.

Colonialism


Country Trends

While the most interesting topic here is the countries and cultures that were the subject of ethographic interest. Another interesting topic is the countries that were interested in these ethnographic images. This wax primarily the najor European countries, especially those involved in the colonial enterprise. This is a little difficult to assess It is fairly easy to roughly assess who was being painted or photographed. It is more difficult to assess who was creating and purchasing these images, at least in the 19th century. This changed with the 20th century when the primary medium for ethnographic photography became the photo postcard. And here the country where they were produced and sent can often be determined. Britain of course had the largest colonial empire. We are not sure, however, that Britain was the major participant in ethnographic imagery. The Jewel of the Crown was India, but India does not seen to have been the major focus of ethnographic imagery. This was the Middle East, but we note that English artists were not some of tha most important practioners. In fact some of the most important practioners of ethohraphic photography in Egypt were other Europeans. The French seem especially interested in ethongraphic imagery, many of the most important artists and photographers were French (19th century). And in the 20th century we see large numbers of ethnographic photo postcards from Sub-Shaharan Africa. Italy was a newly united country which had trouble establishing even a small empire. The Italians were even deafted by the Ethiopinas (1894). A real interest at the time uf unfication (1860s) was on the almost fedual southern Italy. It seems like northern Italians looked on the south like much of Europe looked on Asia and Africa. Germany was like Italy only recently united (1870s) and a late participant in the colonial process, but acquired colonies in Africa and Oceania. Many Germans thought it was an emoire not innleeping with their country's poweranfd fignity. After the turn of the 20th dentury, we do see some German ethnographic postcards from its African colonies which iy lost as a result of Workd War I. The United States did not have a sizeable colonial empire. And what it did have (mainly the Philippines ) inspired little interest. The primary interest was in Native Americans. George Catlin (1797-1872) -was the most important artist. Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1952) was the most important photograoher. Although sometimes forgotton was that Russia had a large colnial empire consisting of large areas of Asia, some of whichbadjoined the Middle East. As far as we can tell, there was little Russian ethnographic interest in these areas.






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Created: 9:31 PM 8/1/2020
Last updated: 9:31 PM 8/1/2020