Alice Seeley Harris's 'concerned photography'

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by ._._z, Dec 30, 2003.

  1. Her late 19th century photographs from Africa of abducted, starved, tortured and
    executed slave labor on behalf of Belgium raised international condemnation and
    influenced Mark Twain to write King Leopold's Soliloquy.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPPrint/LAC/20031229/
    NINE129/TPInternational/

    or just

    http://snipurl.com/3lb9
     
  2. Quite a fascinating and horrible story. It shows clearly the great impact that early photography had on brining the truth out. I can see why it was considered that a photograph cannot lie. I wonder at what point this use of photography turned sensationalistic. Who came after the Harris's in the Congo? Was there a flood of so-called photojournalists immediately after the press became interested? When did photojournalism start lying? It's definitely a field and era worth looking into. Thanks for posting this.

    PS I noticed that, as usual, their missionary zeal forced them to destroy the culture by converting them to christians. It's amazing that we still continue to let this sort of thing happen.
     
  3. "When did photojournalism start lying?"

    In what sense? Fabricating pictures, or distorting the news?

    Look to Matthew Brady et al, or Roger Fenton. These folks set up pictures. Or consider Hearst's famous, "You supply the pictures. I'll supply the war."
     
  4. 'PS I noticed that, as usual, their missionary zeal forced them to destroy the culture by converting them to christians. It's amazing that we still continue to let this sort of thing happen.'............................this didn't happen, although there is the perception that the cultural tradition of many African peoples were wiped out by missonaries.

    The religion and cultural traditions of the Yoruba happens to be over 5000 yrs old, quite older than Christianity itself, despite slavery and missonary zeal, the deep traditions and mystical belief of the African peoples survived, in many instances they 'feigned' acceptance of missionary teachings and kept on practiicing what they believed in, witness as slavery displaced Africans along the disapora, in all the areas Aficans had more of an affect on the dominant cultures than the other way around.

    Slaves taken to South American arrived in Bahia where they pretended to accept Catholicism while practicing Candomble, a spiritual descendant of the Yoruba, their practices, ways of cooking, ways of living had more of an affect on their masters than the other way around , from Carnaval(the masked performance and dance aspect of Carnaval) to the arts.

    The connection via the disapora is incredible, I've purchased Afro-Brazilian art from galleries in Bahia that contained sculpture, carvings, ceremonial dress, artifacts of masked ritual where you can see a direct connections to african, I've seen ceremonial dress where there is NO difference, let along a small difference to the same Artifacts originating out of Africa.

    Many of the traditions of the Yoruba, and the descendants of this spiritual belief, Candomble in Brazil, Black and White Magic have been 'bastardized' and minimized by western culture through writing and movies, in Christianity you have avenging angels, folks rising from the dead, but these are considered as Metaphors, and they are considered as Metaphors by people who practice the spiritual traditions of the Yoruba and other belief systems in Africa, this idea of sticking pins in people and putting a curse on your enemies is a stereotype foisted on many of these belief systems by some in western culture.

    Africans had spiritual and cultural beliefs every bit as evolved as the beliefs of the missionaries who tried to convert them, these folks despite some converts for the most part 'played along' as they did here in the States and in South America, nothing was destroyed, and ironcially as a consequence, a lot of cultural tradition in music and art spread out among the Diapora, a case of a lot of good coming out of the cruelty of slavery.
     
  5. As an aside, there was a culture in Africa whose language did not contain the equivalents for the words, 'thief' or 'stealing', as this culture could not conceive of such a thing, taking something that belonged to somebody else was something they were incapable of conceptualizing.
     
  6. "As an aside, there was a culture in Africa whose language did not contain the equivalents for the words, 'thief' or 'stealing', as this culture could not conceive of such a thing, taking something that belonged to somebody else was something they were incapable of conceptualizing."


    I wonder if that is why English has no word for the pattern of ridges in the trail left by a dung beetle.
     
  7. I would believe that the admirable quality posessed by an African people that never stole from each other would tend to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from bugs who love bullshit.
     
  8. .........and if it's glib sarcasm mixed in with disbelief, so be it. This kind of reminds me of the well documented case of years ago where an African-American student interrupted and attempted to correct a University Professor who during a lecture declared that there no African-American verteran flyers who flew during WWII.

    This student attempted to inform this 'learned' professor of the existence of the Tuskegee Airman, a group of Black fightor pilots with the unequaled record of having never lost a single bomber in any bomber group they had to escort during WWII.

    The professor was incredulous, refused to accept this as fact and insisted that this girl was making it up, although this happens to be common knowledge today.

    Yes, it has been well documented that there was a small very isolated culture of Africans who until they were discovered and overrun by missionaries, never stole from each other, I thought that this story would be interesting to the folks who were not aware of it.
     
  9. Sorry for the sarcasm.

    I think it is too easy to idealize primitive cultures. True, there is no concept of theft, probably because there is no concept of ownership. Sounds nice, but in a world that has been packed with people (billions!) and where the resources are dwindling, ownership (and therefore theft) are going to win the day.

    Primitives also lack words for everything from toaster ovens to small pox.
     
  10. Ward............consider this, there have been on this planet some pretty sophisticated cultures in terms of their social structure and the way they treated each other who happened to be primitive technologically, their social structure and belief systems were quite complex, as I'm sure you already know many truly sophisticated cultures were wiped out by the forces of greed which was backed up by superior weaponry.

    Many of these cultures considered their role as stewardship, stewardship of the land they lived on, and what they shared with each other, I've studied the Yoruba, studied African art and tradition, been to Brazil quite a bit, I would suggest to you that I'm not idealizing some of the issues I've discussed here, I've been among folks who have almost nothing/who live on quite a bit less than what we are accustomed to here in the States who still know how to be happy and treat others with consideration and respect. I've been lost and helped by quite a few folks in some places, been approaced quite solely out of friendship, although overpopulation, dwindling resourses, selfishness and greed are an evergrowing reality, you can travel and meet folks in other cultures who's main concern is living a decent life and treating other people right, not necessarily getting rich.

    African Art had been considered primitive until Picasso spoke of its profound effect on how he perceived Art because of its emotional and spiritual power and not necessarily an artfrom that had to look 'pretty', then the European artworld proceeded to beg, borrow, and/or steal as many gold artifacts and sculpture they could lay their hands on, and now much of the historical art of Africa reside in European galleries and museums.

    Yes there were primitive peoples 50,000yrs ago, and there are descendants of those primitive peoples, farmers and herders who live to this day, and there are sophisticated cultures which seemed to be primitive because of their lack of technology, there's a big difference, but anyway that was what I was alluding to, thanks for the response.
     
  11. I was in Mexico a couple of years ago wandering down the pacific coast (in my wheelchair and with my camera) and was absolutely enthralled by the exact sense that you are describing; it really seems that our ability to appreciate simple pleasure has been imprisoned by the fortress of technology that encases us. I would be very hard pressed to find a child in America as happy as many of the children I met in Mexico. We do have happy children, but their happiness is certainly NOT enhanced by all the crap we buy for them to play with or by all the crap we shovel into their brains via their tv sets. As I wheeled around the cities in Mexico, snapping shots with the hasselblad in my lap, I couldn't stop for a photograph without kids collecting in the doorways and adults coming to ask if I was alright. In my home town (Washington DC) I am either invisible or targeted for solicitation. Joy and techno-sophistication seem perhaps to be antagonistic towards one another.

    So do not take my comments to be condescending to the cultures I brashly describe as "primitive"; the most aching sadness in my heart comes from the realization as I age that I am not physically able to go and survive in such a culture.
     
  12. I believe you have my point exactly, I disagree with you about being able to/not being able to survive in certain cultures, many people of many cultures would assist you because they are friendly/warm/consider it good manners to help others, and expect nothing in return, I've met folks like this, and in third world areas, who would share thier last beer with you, now of course there is also poverty and desperation and crime, some by those who are hungry, but I can understand that, much more than the rich 'white collar' criminals here who already have more money than they'll ever need who still steal from whoever.

    Bahia for many Brazilians/Afro-Brazilians is the spiritual capital of Brazil in a way, it was the point where slaves were first taken to South America, the Pelorinho which is located roughly in the downtown area of the city is a hotbed for innovative Art, it is alive and vital with musicians, poets, writers, painters, and of course photographers, you have any number of festivals, and always with music, from Bossa Nova to Marvin Gaye, to Miles Davis, to Reconcava, to Reggae.

    One of the most famous courtyards in the world is located in the center of the Pelorinho, it is called the Largo Do Pelrinho, it is a courtyard famous because it was where defiant and rebellious slaves were brought to be executed, legends says that part of the color of the brick in courtyard is from the blood of slaves, it is a magnificent place, and you haven't had beer until you've had 'Chopps' at the 'Cantina Da Lua' located in the Largo Do Pelorinho, Ward, you should go there, it sounds like you'll appreciate it, Brazil is a photographers paradise, every old/antique classic car that has disappeared here in the State is in Brazil and ready to be photographed along with some beautiful venues, along with the most photographic subject in Brazil, its people, whatever your personal circumstances, you'll be assisted, helped, and with dignity.

    I mentioned Bahia because in terms of its Art, traditional dress, masked performance, cooking, African sculpture(derivative of African sculpture), you see tangible Artifacts reflective of culture/traditions of the Yoruba which evolved/was transmitted by way of Slavery to become Candomble as practiced in Bahia/much of the rest of Brazil.

    Like everywhere else there is desperation and poverty and crime, but there are also folks who in spite of not having a lot are determined to give you your proper exchange in Cruserios, who will introduce themselves and give you proper directions if to them you seem lost, who will start talking to you like a long lost friend, simply out of friendship while expecting nothing, these folks while not having a lot of money, have a wealth of class, and I've come to find out that it is because of their belief system, many of them practice Candomble, practice what they preach, and treat other people with respect, I've mentioned all this becuase I've been fortunate enough to spend some time in Bahia and see a little of its people and their belief system which evolved from a 5000yr old religion/belief system which came there through slavery from the Gold Coast, originating in the area which is now known as Nigeria.

    As to photographic potential, Bahia as well as the rest of Brazil is your oyster.
     
  13. If you or anyone else reading this decides to ever give Bahia a try, consider this, Bahia has a very exciting and unique Caraval, Bahias Carnaval consists of numerous Trios/electricos which are diesel rigs modified so that you can have various bands with guests perform on top, these diesel rigs travel along two vast parade routes in Bahia during Carnaval, what would be uniquely helpful to you is that you can pay to enjoy carnaval by reserving space on top one of these diesel rigs and you can ride along with the band, you get to travel along with a band that travels around Bahia along Carnavals parade route and you would be relatively safe atop one of these rigs, would not need constance assistance to move through Carnaval on foot, would be able to concentrate on photographing what you want instead of worrying about your camera.

    I believe it was $100.00 to reserve a space as a guest on one of these rigs last time I checked, but it's been some time, whatever it is, it would be good for your sitiuation and it's a wonderful way to see Carnaval actually for anybody their first time in Bahia, and you could pick your nights to do this.
     
  14. The Belgians pretend to this day that this never happened.
     

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