2018 Winner: The Missionary Image Paradigm and Response

Project Information
The Missionary Image Paradigm and Response
HAVC 191D: Semiotics and Visual Culture
The purpose of this research is to study the dominant missionary form of image making in Samoa at the turn of 20th century and the other type of photographic imagery that emerged as a result. How have missionary photographs and counter- missionary imagery contributed to an emerging paradigm between these two bodies of work and as a result done specific kinds of ideological work? This essay examines missionary based photographs and places them in conversation with other portrait style images that do not adhere to the dominant missionary photographic paradigm of the time. The missionary imagery presented Samoans as savage and needing to be saved. Each of the three missionary images studied follows four repeated themes that are present in the thousands of archival missionary photographs that exist. The images that exist in contrast with the missionary images consist of different thematic elements typically involving the subject of the photograph placed portrait style against a blank background defying the regular themes of missionary photography. However, these images despite their attempts to do exist otherwise, are inevitably intertwined in the colonial and missionary discourses of the time.
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  • Hattie Clark Fletcher (Cowell)