REVIEW ARTICLE / VINAY LAL*
The Burden (and Freedom) of Photography
Pinney, Christopher. Camera Indica: The Social of Indian Photographs. London: Reaktion Books, 1997; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 240 pp. $29.00
Ryan, James R. Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire. London: Reaktion Books, 1997; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 272 pp.
The Tasmanian Aboriginals were rendered extinct in the second half of the nineteenth century, much less than one hundred years after they first came into contact with the white man. Decimated by disease, hunted by dogs, and shot by white convicts who were let loose in what was conceived to be terra nullis, the odd dozen Aboriginals who survived this onslaught of Western civilization were driven to a settlement near Hobart, where they were held in captivity. They were then photographed and, in a manner of speaking, 'displayed' in London at the International Exhibition in 1862. Doubtless, from the perspective of the white man, this was much better than being scalped, and the Aboriginals should have been grateful. But since natives are characteristically ungenerous, they slowly crept towards their death, and only a handful remained alive when the next round of photographs was shown at the International Exhibition in 1866. When James Bonwick's Last of the Tasmanians was published in 1870, it included a photograph of an Aboriginal woman who, in the previous year, had become the sole remaining survivor. "Trucanini" herself died in 1876, the year that the one hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, many of whose signatories shared a family
* University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Social Scientist, Vol. 29, Nos. 5 - 6, May - June 2000