Seeing is Believing: Photographs of American Colonialism in the Philippines

Curated by Aaron Madow ’14

October 25, 2012 to February 1, 2013

Kalinga chief from Lubuagan? Bontoc Igorot dance troupe? Less-civilized Kalinga policemen? Multiple identifications made by colonialists reveals more about the arbitrariness of their classificatory system & beliefs than anything about these individuals.

Seeing is Believing: Photographs of American Colonialism in the Philippines questions the association between sight and belief fundamental to the narrative of colonial official Dean Worcester and his shadowy photographer, Charles Martin. The hand-written captions on these photographs come from a system of thought where attributes like race and civilization were believed to be visible on Philippine bodies. This exhibit seeks to recover and fracture the conflation between sight and belief so important to American colonial arguments about the Philippines. Through historical contextualization, we are reminded of what these photographs stood for, and how the exploitation and racism that shaped the Philippines have left firm, tangible traces that are still apparent in the photos today. Still, the interpretations and meaning of these photographs cannot be limited by any one narrative. Turning viewers into participants in knowledge-making, this exhibit finally asks, when you see these photographs, what do you believe?