March 7, 2013
Mismeasuring Man: Photography, Empire, & Ethnology
Charles Darwin, The origin of Species, 1859
Book on modern evolutionary theory. Suggested that
Europeans related to African and that al human beings had
descended from apes. Way in which it was used was for
both extraordinarily important ways of breaking down
bold racist conceptions of human history and provided
Top of darwins family tree of human race was the British
then the Africans as primitive race childlike and
unintelligent and such inferior races were doomed to
wither, be ruled, or destroyed by there superiors. Darwin
provided basis for slavery and empire providing
bioracional y certain human beings should be able to rule
over other types of human beings.
The Visual representation became extraordinarily important. One of most offensive
of these pseudoscience’s was phrenology which was idea that sizes of diff areas of
the brain were meaningful and could be infured by examining the skull (not true)
applied theory to diff kinds of skulls that had been acquired and characterized them
ex part of brain that localized moral feeling and empathy could presume from shape
of skull that they were moral or intelligent etc. Visual representations tended to look
like this from an American book. Notion of evolution by natural selection. Temporal
aspect put into a racist hierarchy top of which is western European tellingly
depicted as a Greek Apollo like statue to the right is his ideal Caucasian skull below
him is negro and his skull below him is an ape and its skull. Entire system set up to
provide biological rational or basis for why it was that empire needed to exist to
civilize and supervise the inferior minds of Africans. Hierarchy justified making ppl
in African work as slaves cuz if not properly supervised they would be left to own
devices and incapable of governing themselves. Later part of 1850’s is application
of photography to this bold enterprise.
In 1873 A phrenologist among.. (Samual Borne) published photos not just one photo
but two frontal and profile. Importance of profile view for establishing structure of
skull therefore brain therefor-moral characteristics is extremely important. Formal
motifs arising out of underlying ideology of this project. Skull visible from both
“Abdullah”, by Carl Dammann, Ethnological photographic
gallery of the various races of men. German raised in Humberg
photographer made at least 5 or 6 hundred image pairs like this.
Man identified by first name from North African don’t know
precisely where. Dual visual representation photo like this would of
appealed to photographer is shaved bald head that allows Photography
application of those theories to image or project onto the individuals particularly
racist believes which justified imperial project that this was in support of.
Dammann, Men in a Mock Battle, Australia, 1870
Part of same project as the one above. Staged in studio setting title gives it away
“mock battle” not real.
Dammann, Austrians, 1870,
Whatever scientific pretensions it had was only one part. Painted studio backdrop
evoking tropical local involved. Scientific orientation is one demotion in a much
larger set of visual representations.
John Lamprey, Front & profile views of a Malayan male 1869
English man using familiar duality of frontal and profile but don’t have tropical
background w unusual foliage no representational background but rather a grid
which looks like a screen we have a real sense of what is at stake in his photos is not
setting him in naturalistic location but rather setting up the body of none white man
as subject of measure and study which better way than up against a grid which can
plot diff features of the body. Communicate that info with other scientists and come
to conclusions of how his body reflects colonial and imperial enterprises.
(bookb.google.ca photography: A Cultural History-mary warner Marien p.153)
Rounding up the Usual Suspects: Photography & the law
Foreshadows legal use of photography. Obsessed with organization of bodies
considered as other by virtue of their race, social class or their gender. Photography
Alphonse Bertillon, Measuring the elbow, from
Service d’identification de la Prefecture de police
pour L’exposition universelle de Chicago 1893.
In 1880s of Paris man raised to fame not a detective but is
a scientist or pseudoscientist. System took advantage of
metric and apply to system of imaging, storing, and
retrieving. Developed system of photographic storage
heart of it is issue of measurement. He was convinced that
if u could set up enough categories and regularly take
those measurements whenever someone came to station
figure out way of storing so can be readily retrieved from
the system all possible files that match that persons
identity. The display that Bertillon made of Columbian
exposition in Chicago 1893 demonstrated his system to
the public top and bottom view system of measuring
length of forearm.
His system was very intricate. On the
left is a guide he printed and
distributed to police organizations all
around Paris then Europe then North
American detailing how
measurements should be taken to fit
into photographic knowledge.
Measuring device on the right that
looks like torture device.
Each books set around had series of illustrations telling us how to deal with
measurement of particularly immeasurable thing like the human ear.
In the appendix to this book he included these charts there was one
for each minute part of the body this one is abt the ear 12 diff
characteristic types of ear slightly diff enough to know which one
individual sitting in front of his featured. Plate number 55 in a series.
One data point into the system.
Nose here is implicated rough approximation as to which nose matches one in front
of you. System breaks down at a certain point cuz he included things like hairstyle Photography
which was not ideal if trying to overcome identification of criminals. Willful
blindness to characteristics that don’t change like shape of ear and those that
change easily like hairstyle ignorance of distinction is clearly wrapped up in
evolutionary arguments made since Darwin’s treatise. He becomes early advocate
fro use of fingerprints, which really replaces this photographic system which was in
use for abt 20years.
Bertillon classic frontal and profile view down below is data points written by hand,
system of info retrievable optimized by standardizing forms each measurement
piece of data that could go into the system.
Portrait of the two Will Wests, inmates of the
Two men both names Will west not very long until
they realize they can wreak havoc in the prison by
switching places. Look similar not identical. Had
them photographed with Bertillon measurements
and had them given to security in prison to make
sure each dealt with way they were suppose to be.
Significant failures, such as the surreal case of Will
and William West brought Bertillonage into
disfavor. Possibly brothers separated at birth, they
grew up as strangers. They were arrested
separately and both sent to Leavenworth. Their
Bertillon measurements were identical.
Way court system used photography for purpose of characterization civil court and
public court. One of 3 known photography he was a baronet heir to a title and a
fortune. Roger like many aristocratic ponses of his era goes out in search of himself
and ends up in Caribbean and brazil while in brazil received telegram that his father
has died and he is know the baronet and he must return to England to claim his title
and fortune. On his way back ship he’s on sinks and he is presumed to be dead but
his mother back in England clings to believe that maybe he survived cuz some of the
shipwreck discovered off cost of brazil some time later. Places advertisements in
newspapers, hired private detectives offers enormous rewards goes to physcic who
tells her he is alive and well and is her duty that he is given his rightful heritage. A
few months into this campaign man emerges and claims he’s her departed son.
Trio of photos on the left is photo of roger before his disappearance on the right is
the man who claims to be him and middle is highbred of the two in which they were
layered on top of each other. Offered not as he was a fraud but that they were one in
the same person. Grid placed in front of faces used as had been much earlier to
provide set of measurements to the juror as to weather or not he is the son. Can’t
superimpose one photo on the other cant abstract any kind of verdict from center
image but this was offered by family as prof that he had returned. This didn’t Photography
convince judge. Juror man of right sentenced to 14 years in prison. Bareness visited
his regularly allowed for his generous maintenance fights her relatives successfully
to insure he could be buried in family plot. Grid ultimately tells us very little other
than responses that they receive.
“The Battle with the Slum”
the public health projects of 19 cent industrial cities which are hybrid of legal and
medical. Phrase from book by immigrant to New York called Jacob
Jacob A Riis: Slum in NY city, Mullen’s Alley, Cherry Alley, 1889
Most prominent ..largely immigrants come from Eastern/central Europe to work in
manufacturing in last quarter of 19 cent lower east side of NY most densely
popular location. Jacob initially newspaper reported decided to write book on
problem of population in NY decided photography must be part of it to see what
situation looks like so bad beggars belief. He is someone who wants to produce
symphony of ppl who can contribute financially to well being of ppl. Imbedded with
NY city department of health whose task is to maintain sanitifidy of living conditions
and to reform and assimilate workers into respectable middle class society. Riss is
compromised doesn’t think of himself that way. Configuration of urban space in
neighborhoods he was investigating often made up of alleyways or areas not on
official city streets but which grew up in backs of buildings were u could house
someone or have someone work. Geography of Riss’s travels is tricky to pin down
place not pinned on map refers to alleyway behind building owned by man named
Mullen. Not based on maps or public directories.
Jacob Riis, Bandits Roost,
Most famous of his photos.
Commandeered by one of street
gangs of NY. You see classically
perspectival shot into the
distance but do