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Anthropology And Colonialism In African Photography

588 words - 3 pages

When studying anthropology and colonialism, Africa and African photography are some of the best topics someone could study. It shows how much the view of a culture can get skewed and stereotyped. Photography and colonialism have been the major reasons why people see Africa how they do today. In the grand scheme of things, it is happened in an extremely short period of time, but this view will probably be permanent.
African photography shows both realities and what someone else wanted to see, even though the line between them when studying can be very blurry. A photograph in which one does not know all, or any of the facts, can be frustrating, but can also be useful. It can cause someone to think beyond what is there visually, and ponder on what in history created this photo. Even the 3 different ways of looking at photos, mentioned by ...view middle of the document...

(Edwards, 7) Different appearances came to mean different things. People were split up based on race, area, religion, culture, and many more stereotypes. This allows people to generalize and see past many small differences and information that they don't already think they know.
A very important topic when it comes to African colonialism and anthropology, and one I found very interesting, is postcards. It had such a massive influence on the view of African society, I didn't think it could go unmentioned. They were very dependent on stereotype and what the Westerners wanted to see. Meanings and captions were changed as the process of the postcard went along, giving people very inaccurate views on African culture. (Geary + Webb, 3) Viewers of the postcards could see a version of the colonial reality that showed a variety of things ranging from African customs and practices to Western accomplishments in the colonies. People wanted to see their country doing well and "civilizing" the tribal population. Africans with Western clothes and technology, as well as Africans working for Westerners, were very popular images. Most of these photos were viewed in the "romanticized" category. Europeans thought they were doing a great thing for these people, and that their countries and religions were heroes for saving these people. They looked past whether the Africans really wanted or needed their help.
This has covered just a fraction of all the examples of the relation of African photography to colonialism and anthropology. But, even so, it is quite obvious how powerful a tool photographs can be in influencing views, opinions, and stereotypes. Many themes are expected in African photography that are mostly not even native to African culture or thoughts. These photos move like wildfire and uphold false beliefs and many negative thoughts. This is really an eye opener. Never before did I question the reality of a photo or how accurate stereotypes really were.

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