Wait, what? I thought this was an advertisement for the exhibit on those rare photographs of American colonialism in the Philippines that has an opening reception with food and drink you can’t miss on Thursday, 10/25 from 6-8 P.M. (Wait, you mean the “Third World” countries were right when they accused the U.S. of being a colonial power? To which I say: APUSH might have been fun, but it was far from the whole story).
Imagine traveling to Haverford College as a visitor from a distant place, and then taking photographs that you believed show the evolutionarily backwardess and savagery of the students there. And you never bothered to learn anything about your subjects, most of whom glare angrily at you while they snap your picture, and also you had a voyeuristic impulse to photograph people who wear different types of clothing than your culture considers proper. And when you got back to your photo lab in the bottom of Founders, the colonial headquarters, you captioned these individuals as merely examples of tribal types.
Well, in a nutshell, that’s what government photographer Dean Worcester and Charles Martin did to the animist, non-Christian peoples of the Philippines between 1902-1914 until both were forced out in large part due to the blistering critic of Filipino nationalist elites (perhaps your condescending parents in our analogy).
Seeing is Believing: Photographs of American Colonialism in the Philippines tells this story, and turning its viewers in participants in knowledge-creation, finally asks: when you see these photographs, what can you believe?
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