Photography In Colonial India

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Photography was a major development in technology and of cultural representation. In colonial India, photographs became a way for people to represent themselves and display themselves. It also became a form of documentation for criminals and murder scenes. Photography has become a way to more accurately depict the culture, land, and people of India – though it still had its opportunities to be manipulated. Photography was also a major for of cross-cultural representation for those of colonial India, as compilation of images were created and displayed in Europe to represent India for those who were unable to visit the country. By this doing, photography became a major tool for empirical development. Socially, photos – especially ethnographic…show more content…
Just like how painters would manipulate landscapes to portray a picturesque India as one of antiquity and ruins, the same is done with photography. Certain patrons, such as Dalton, would request artist’s, in this case Peppe, to delve into more “primitive” areas expecting exotic and wild-like creatures that both fascinated the British, but also acted as a justification of their occupation with the concept of “The White Man’s Burden.” These compilations eventually found its way from ethnographic studies to just being new art made for mass consumption. This can also be attributed to the idea of postcards developed with photography to portray India. Photography also played key political roles. As stated before, the portrayal of different Indian natives and their groups could act as a justification of the British occupation as well as a form of or pre-cursor to racism, as it could portray Indians as unadvanced or too savage to be able to have autonomy. Other political roles that would come into play is the representing of Indians who have adopted some western aspects. This hybridity of dress and interest can be shown with Shivaji Rao’s doctored images. His…show more content…
In Dalton’s Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, there is an image labelled “Juang Girls.” This image portrays two young Juang females. They were described as “wild timid creatures” and the photographer, Tosco Peppe, stated that they were difficult to take pictures of. The two females are portrayed in front of a wooden, fence-like background and both subjects are mostly nude. The only form of clothing on these two females are the leaf wraps around their hips to cover their genital area. They are, however, portrayed with man accessories such as strews of braided or beaded necklaces around their necks and multiple bangles stacked on their wrists. The hairstyle they are shown in is a simple braided style. Both females are pressed against the wooden background, indicating a recoil or retraction from the camera. While one female is making direct eye contact to the camera, the other is shying away from its gaze with downturned eyes – though both portray somber or even unhappy facial expressions. The photograph was taken for ethnographic purposes. The photographer, Peppe, was requested by Dalton to proceed “into the wild part of Singbhum and Keonjhur” and to essentially take images of “some of the most primitive of human beings [Juang].” This request from Dalton highlights the fascination, and possibly fetishism, that British society had towards Indian

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