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The ‘Other’ in the history of photography

Because photography was seen as the ideal tool for providing evidence due to its perceived indexicality, it was used to observe and record the face and head. In the 1850s and 1860s the British eugenicist Francis Galton obtained portrait photographs of criminals from the archive of Millbank Prison. He meticulously re-photographed theses pictures, exposing a number of them onto a single glass plate negative to create a ‘composite’ image….The resulting images, Galton argued, provided faithful evidence of the physical appearance of ‘the Criminal type’….The physiognomic ‘evidence provided by these photographs was used to legitimate the hereditary ‘superiority’ of certain groups of people, such as the emerging middle-classes, and even the potential elimination of their ‘inferiors’. (1)

In the 19th century photography promoted an attitude in the Western World of a sense of superiority over many of the people in rest of the world, these others were seen as inferior, uncivilised, ill educated and their lands colonies-able. Today’s modern tourist, in the Souk retains a considered status above that of the local people of the Souk. He or she has the status of a wealthy honoured guest; and the modern tourist, like the Victorian Photographer before them, can often manipulate willing ‘natives’ to pose for the camera. Unconsciously / unwittingly the modern tourist is playing out a form of colonial colonisation. In the modern world it is very rare not to find a tourist amongst the people of the Souk.


  1. Bull (2010) page 103.

Published by shauncn512659

Hi, I am an OCA student studying for an Art degree in Photography , my student number is 512659. My e-mail is:

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