“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” ~ Aaron Siskind
The captivating photographs below were featured in a 1917 National Geographic story that documented the exotic beauty of North African people and their religious customs. Unlike the anthropological approach to other cultures, people and countries that primarily exists today, the captions that reference many of the photos in this series ‘Scenes of the Orient‘ are ethnocentric, paternalistic and colonialist at best, and downright racist at worst. Thankfully, the beauty of these captured moments surpass the limitations of the recorder.
Ethnocentrism is the tendency to view one’s culture as superior to others. Biases are most often exposed during interactions with members of other cultures, but may not be perceived as such without open and honest communication.
Self-reference is the tendency of individuals, often unconsciously, to use the standards of one’s own culture to evaluate others. For example, Americans may perceive more traditional societies to be “backward” and “unmotivated” because they fail to adopt new technologies or social customs, seeking instead to preserve traditional values.
“In the 1960s, a supposedly well read American psychology professor referred to India’s culture as “sick” because, despite severe food shortages, the Hindu religion did not allow cows to be consumed. The psychologist expressed disgust that the cows were allowed to roam free in villages, although it turns out that they provided valuable functions by offering milk and fertilizing fields.” Source: USC Marshall
In our increasingly interconnected world we find fewer opportunities to encounter cultures that have not been adulterated, and photos like these allow us to time travel to the turn of the century when an Algeria Desert Flower graced the world with an intimate portrait of her beauty.
- Forgotten French Genocide in Algeria (revivers.wordpress.com)
- Algerian President Sets Elections for May 10 (abcnews.go.com)
- Algeria: The “dur” who came in from the cold (thewasat.wordpress.com)
- Ethnocentrism (salemwitchhunt.wordpress.com)