Stedelijk Studies Journal Issue #11
After(-)Images: Problematizing Collections of Early Documentary Photography in the Art Museum
by Fabienne Chiang
Though the Stedelijk was the location of the first international photography exhibition in the Netherlands in 1908, the museum only began collecting photography in 1958. Following in the footsteps of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), which had already begun collecting photography in 1930 and would establish a dedicated department in 1940 under the watchful eye of curator and photographer Beaumont Newhall, the Stedelijk embarked on the path of creating the first public photography collection in an art museum in the Netherlands sixty-three years after the museum opened its doors to the public for the very first time. 
Initially the collection was part of the library, and would later be further developed as part of the design department. In 1980 the collection became a subdivision of the prints and drawings department, with its own dedicated curator, and would eventually be recognized as an independent discipline within the museum’s collection at the turn of the millennium.  Despite the fact that the collection is only half as old as the museum, there have been a number of developments in photography discourse and society that make us look at the collection in a very different light today. In the following essay, I will look more closely at the collection and the ways in which the curator, as well as the museum as an institution and as an actor in the wider network of different kinds of collections, has continued to uphold colonial power structures that have no place in the Postcolonial Age.
The photography collection of the Stedelijk encompasses photographs from the late nineteenth century through to the present. And while photography started to become more autonomous from the 1970s onwards, a large part of the photography collection engages with social issues and realities in some form or other. As with other parts of the collection, the photography collection has centered on the white subject and has largely focused on the work of Dutch, Western European, or settler-colonial North American photographers who are white and male. Many of these photographers explicitly engaged in documentary photography, a genre that will be further examined and unpacked in the following sections. This essay will wind through several case studies of photographs in the holdings of the Stedelijk Museum that illustrate the discontents of the representation of the Othered colonial and postcolonial subject from a decolonial perspective.
Where documentation and photography have long been intertwined, it is important to return to the dawn of photography. The beginnings of photography are often considered to coincide with the presentation of the daguerreotype at the French Chamber of Deputies in 1839.  Towards the mid-nineteenth century, when photographic technologies became more readily available, Western colonialism was in full swing and photography became a tool to document and index the places, people, and flora and fauna of (to be) colonized regions. Documentary photography, in particular portraiture, was also used to justify these colonial projects—be it as illustration of pseudoscientific race theories or anthropological pictures that depicted Indigenous people and their cultures that were considered “primitive” by the colonizers. 
While this painful history may not be visible within the image of all photographs, it is something that echoes through the use of the medium. This Othering of the colonial subject that is imprinted in the visual layer of these anthropological photographs, of which many examples can be found in the collections of ethnographic museums and institutions such as the National Museum of World Cultures (NMVW) or the Royal Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), has informed the way in which we look at and dissect photographs today. With Edward Said laying the groundwork for this theory in his seminal publication Orientalism, this colonizer/colonized, us/Other dichotomy is thus not only detectable in the photographs themselves but also in their use or circulation and the value and interpretation assigned to them through their collection, display, and reception.
While there were reprehensible intentions behind a lot of early anthropological photographs, later documentary photography from the 1950s has also been criticized for the inherent white gaze that it projected on the Other and the role that this has played in the perpetuation of outdated discriminatory stereotypes. During the age of travel in the postwar period, many Dutch and Western European photographers collected by the museum traveled across the southern continents, documenting as they went along. The beloved Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken, who was the subject of a large retrospective in 2017, is an example of this phenomenon, traveling through Central Africa in 1956–1957, and on to Asia and beyond in 1959–1960. Van der Elsken visited Ubangi-Shari (now the Central African Republic) on the invitation of his brother-in-law, an ethnologist and district administrator of the French colony. As a guest, he spent three months photographing the local population, focusing specifically on that which was foreign to him. There are images of safari, celebration and loss, and the people who crossed paths with the photographer. An image of a smiling woman, standing topless with a piece of white fabric wrapped around the waist, graces the cover of Van der Elsken’s subsequent photo book Bagara. As expressed on the booklet accompanying the first print run of the publication in 1958, the title of the series is the native word for “buffalo,” which in the artist’s mind was a fitting personification of the continent: “A formidable tyrant, the creature in whom all the ferocity, the cunning and the pulsing life of Africa are united.”  However, despite the inclusion of nuance and recognition of the difference of his expectations and actual experiences in Ubangi-Shari in the photographer’s accompanying interview, there is an extra emphasis on the “primitivism” of life and the people of Ubangi-Shari that are reflective of the modernist romantic image of Indigenous people as free, lawless, and close to nature. “In Africa I got to know very different people. It was a world of hooligans, free-and-easy, yeah, a bit colonialistic [sic], with ideas that were a very long ways from what you once read. It fascinated and shocked me—and I photographed it. I returned to Europe with thousands of photos and impressions, numb and exhausted,” Van der Elsken wrote of his trip, suggesting that he was trying to share this experience through his images with those who stayed behind at home. 
But how would these images have been interpreted by the predominantly white audiences for whom Bagara would be published and that would leaf through the pages? How would the images within the covers of the book shape the image of the local population in this far-away colony? Would the stereotypes of the “savage continent” be dispelled or reinforced through Van der Elsken’s white gaze? Coupled with the widely circulated narratives of “adventurers” like anthropologist Paul Julien, who lead approximately twenty-eight expeditions to the African continent between 1926 and 1952, prodding and poking its Indigenous peoples in the name of “science,”  the image that Van der Elsken’s photographs projected of the African continent remained rather two-dimensional. Photographs from the Bagara series were displayed and acquired by the museum as late as 2017, with little textual reflection on the problematic connotations of these photographs and the colonial narratives they carry.
In her critique of the heavily debated traveling exhibition The Family of Man, curated by MoMA’s Edward Steichen and shown at the Stedelijk Museum in 1956, photography theorist Ariella Azoulay explores the effects of such a lack of textual descriptors. In The Family of Man, the photographs did not contain any information to contextualize the images, save for name of photographer and location where they were taken. She touches on the agency of the subject, the conditions of production of a photograph (either optimal or exploitative/unjust), and the agency of the viewer. To Azoulay, the viewer is ultimately challenged to make sense of the images as a whole in order to derive meaning from the curator’s selection and bring their own thoughts and experiences into the mix. In other words, Steichen is not the sole author of the exhibition, but the participation of the viewers is equally weighty in the creation of meaning. To Azoulay, this visual declaration of human rights and their abuses asks people to do better in and be aware of their roles as perpetrators of such injustices. 
Where Azoulay offers us an interesting reading of Steichen’s unconventional curatorial strategy, one must question whether the lack of “spoon-fed” information has the ability to reach audience groups that have grown up with these visual and mental images and see nothing wrong.  Azoulay agrees that photographs are read on the basis of the viewer’s own experiences and thoughts, likening them to a Rorschach test.  However, where Azoulay discusses the ability to perceive what is wrong with an image, she does not zoom in on the representational power of the image and the ability in which images (without minimizing the agency of the viewer) are able to desensitize the viewer, normalizing and justifying the power structures implicit in the perceptions we have of the Other. While the traveling exhibition received criticism from the outset, visitors at MoMA had different concerns than those outside of the United States. During the 1959 Moscow leg of the exhibition, Theophilus Neokonkwo removed several photographs in the exhibition to protest the way in which African and Asian subjects were shown. 
Another example from the Stedelijk’s holdings is a series of photographs taken by Hungarian-Dutch photographer Ata Kandó of the Yanomami and Ye’kuana people in Venezuela and Brazil. These photographs are part of a permanent loan from the Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, of which the Stedelijk has become the caretaker. Kandó’s series was originally intended to raise awareness of the genocide of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon. But what are the lines between raising awareness and the exploitation of the Other in order to satisfy a white savior complex? The photographs depict the communities in a way similar to traditional forms of anthropological photography, highlighting their manner of dress and body adornment. One notable photograph from this series depicts a group of four outside a building: two are standing, in full regalia, while a young child plays in the foreground, sitting on the extended legs of a woman. The woman has raised her hands in front of her face, as though to cover it and reject the taking of the photograph. Of course the reason the woman’s hands happened to cover her face the very moment the camera’s shutter went off could be coincidental, but the gesture prompts the viewer to reflect for a moment on the power dynamics between the privileged traveling photographer and her Indigenous subject, who appears to be on strike. The photograph prompts us to question the conditions surrounding the creation of Kandó’s photograph. Was the subject asked to participate in the act of photography? How was she affected by the power dynamics between herself and this outsider of the community? Was she given a choice? And was she informed of the subsequent circulation of her photograph, the way in which her image would be mediated to viewers in Europe?
In a post-#MeToo era, discussions about consent and conditions surrounding the creation of a photograph are as burning as ever, more recently having gathered mainstream attention after model Emily Ratajkowski published her essay in the Cut magazine, entitled “Buying Myself Back: When does a model own her own image?”  Azoulay offers a different take on the existence of the nonconsensual photograph in her groundbreaking publication The Civil Contract of Photography (2008). She writes about the violence of the moment in which a person’s photograph is taken, as this marks the moment in which the photographed person’s rights are appropriated. They are no longer considered the owner of the photograph. Azoulay goes on to argue that in the refusal of the subject during the act of taking the photograph there lies an institutionalization of this refusal—her rejection is hereby officially noted through the photograph as document.  And, more importantly, “A photographic contract also enables the injured parties to present their grievances in person and through others now or in the future.”  It remains a mystery as to how the photographed woman actually felt about the image, and one can only speculate how she might have reacted to the title of the publication, Slave or Dead, that would contain these photographs from Kandó’s time with Indigenous peoples in the region.
The prevalence of socially engaged photography such as Kandó’s, which often advocated for marginalized communities, spread in the 1950s and ’60s, and started to be questioned in photography discourse in the 1970s. The commercialization and consumption of images of the suffering Other, and their lack of agency in creating actual change, were widely debated during this time.  Especially images of severely underweight children in non-Western countries were subject to this discussion. These images would later be termed “poverty porn” in the 1980s, when they took over the visuals of charity drives—essentially exploiting the suffering of the Other, to be consumed in the West by Upper and Middle Class folks who could give themselves a pat on the back for contributing to charitable causes. As Azoulay writes, “Photography, in most of its public appearances,[…] perpetuated the exploitative relations that already existed in society.”  Accordingly, many photographers recalibrated their cameras and pointed them towards their own communities, geographies, and social classes. However, throughout the 1970s and beyond, the museum kept expanding its collection with additions of works that conformed to this contested form of socially engaged photography.
It is here that I would like to turn to the spectatorial function of the photograph and the role of the photography curator and the museum. According to Azoulay,
“Photography is an apparatus of power that cannot be reduced to any of its components: a camera, a photographer, a photographed environment, object, person, or spectator. “Photography” is a term that designates an ensemble of diverse actions that contain the production, distribution, exchange, and consumption of the photographic image.” 
Azoulay identifies the shift towards a more spectator-centric approach to the photograph within the museum that has emerged in the 1990s, one that reconsiders the ethical responsibility towards the subject.  Nowadays we must see and understand photography as a piece of a larger puzzle, and examine the relationships between the people involved in the creation of a photograph and its meanings. Here, I would like to propose the metaphor of the after-image in thinking about the way in which photographs both inform and play into existing power structures, and can therefore shape our perception of the world. An after-image is an impression of an image that lingers on the retina of the eye, even after the original image has left one’s field of vision. I would like to argue that the reception of photographs is very similar; while we may not remember a singular photograph in all of its details, photographs leave us with impressions of something. Within each photograph, there are subtle indicators of a narrative: who is depicted, how are they depicted, what is the leading narrative of the depiction? Through the act of looking at essentially the same scene, repeated again and again through the depiction of different subjects, the photograph as an object is transferred into the mind’s eye, where it becomes a learned fact. At times these narratives are further highlighted by the accompanying mediation provided, carefully composed by the curator in order to supply the viewer with sufficient information to facilitate the interpretation of a work. Roland Barthes offers us insight into how the message of images may be distorted through accompanying text. He identifies the two processes of “relay” and “anchorage” that supply additional information to form a complete message or steer the interpretation of images in a certain direction.  The role that museums play in this system is then not only as arbiters of taste and value, but as gatekeepers of the circulation of images, and therefore also the spread of related views of the world, history, and the Other, keeping intact the colonial systems that allow for and promote the injustices that have governed the global world order since long ago. Continually exposed to certain narratives through images, reinforced through text, and legitimized by institutions of knowledge, our idea of the world is shaped. As author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie aptly put it: “[…] create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” 
Ngozi Adichie goes on to correctly identify that the creation of a singular and definitive narrative is orchestrated by systems of power. So who, or better, what is hiding the seemingly objective veneer of a photograph? Who or what is the beneficiary? We can look in front of and behind the camera, but we also look at the way in which we, as viewers, receive the image, and the role that viewers play in the circulation of these mental images and ideologies that are configured within photographic images.
An interesting case that demonstrates photography’s role in the dissemination of certain narratives, to which I would like to apply curator and cultural historian Mark Sealy’s observations, is that surrounding two sets of images documenting the independence of the Republic of Indonesia. The Stedelijk holds one of these sets: twenty-eight photographs by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, taken for the Magnum agency in 1949. Along with the photographs by Dutch photographer Cas Oorthuys and Dutch author Jef Last, these photographs are among the few in the collection documenting postwar Indonesia. Then married to and traveling with his first wife, Ratna Mohini, an Indonesian dancer and poet, Cartier-Bresson documented the handover of Indonesia from the Dutch to the Sukano-Hatta government in his capacity as a press photographer. The photographs tell us the story of the official occasion, as well as of local inhabitants preparing for the celebrations. Several images also depict Dutch soldiers—one as he walks along the street accompanied by his attendant, another of soldiers piling into the back of a truck near Gondang Winangun.  While these pictures sketch an image of this moment in time, the moment in which they were recorded also marks the beginning of the Indonesian Republic in the eyes of the Western world. Already on August 17th, 1945, Surkarno had proclaimed the independence of the republic and the red and white Indonesian flag had been hoisted for the very first time. This decisive moment was documented by IPPHOS, the Indonesian press photo service, founded by Alex and Frans Mendur, Justus and Frans Umbas, Alex Mamusung, and Oscar Ganda. Of this momentous occasion, only the photographs by Frans Mendur were published.
Contrary to the photographs by Cartier-Bresson, the photographs by Mendur were collected by the NMVW. Cartier-Bresson’s photographs were not correctly registered at the time of their acquisition, and were only discovered in the museum’s collection in 2004. They are presumed to be part of a collection purchased by the museum in 1987 from Dutch documentary photographer and avid collector Willem Diepraam, the provenance of several others of Cartier-Bresson’s works. Diepraam began collecting photographs in the 1970s, in a period when his own career as a photographer was taking off and he began studying photographs closely in order to learn from the work of his predecessors and contemporaries.  Diepraam nostalgically recalled the informality of collecting photography in this period by trading with starting gallerists, buying photographs by the boxload at auctions, and even scavenging for trash bags filled with photographs that had been thrown out by press agencies.  Parts of Diepraam’s collection were acquired by the Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst and the Stedelijk Museum in 1987. The acquisition of Diepraam’s collection was one of the ways in which the Stedelijk (along with many other art museums) tried to counter the void of photography in its collection. Acquiring parts of existing private collections by private collectors proved less time- and resource-intensive than compiling long lists of “important” photographic documents from the preceding century and more and then trying to source them through auctions and sales. As such, it is necessary to recognize that this part of the collection was colored by Diepraam’s own interests in his fellow documentary photographers and photojournalists, specifically those working for big agencies or publications. Several other photographs in the collection, formally part of Diepraam’s, are by Magnum photographers such as Robert Capa, Cartier-Bresson, and André Kertész, or those published in LIFE, like the series A Harlem Family by Gordon Parks, who remains one of the few examples of Black, Indigenous and photographers of colour in the museum’s collection of early photography.
It is at this point that one must question what the presence of these photographs in the collection signifies. Does it signify the importance of the image itself or the event, the photographer and his oeuvre, or perhaps even the eye of the original collector? Perhaps all of the above. However, in this confirmation one must ask how these choices also reinforce the dominance of colonial narratives in our collective perception of history. In terms of their function as press images, it could be said that Mendur’s photographs had more impact than those taken by Cartier-Bresson, given the fact that they helped spread the message of independence throughout the Indonesian Archipelago, activating resistance among its peoples, whereas Cartier-Bresson’s functioned as a factual yet passive document. So what makes these documentary photographs an ethnographic object, rather than one worthy of the Stedelijk’s collection? In his publication Decolonising the Camera: Photography in Racial Time, Sealy offers us insight into the violence perpetuated through photography and proposes a new way of reading photographs through decolonial frames. In regards to Black British photography from the 1980s, Sealy argues that
it is not[their] formal qualities alone that need to be assessed, it is the social and political world in which they were made that needs to be considered. […] This demands that different criteria be applied to reading the work and that the work is assessed through different cultural codifications from those that traditionally dominate the making and curating of photography. 
Following Sealy, we must recognize that the argument of quality is a slippery slope, and is very subjective in the case of press photographs—qualitatively one might say they are no different at all, they are both sharp, well-lit, and center on the “action.” What is noteworthy, however, is that the images recognize the decisive moment for the Indonesian Republic at two different points in time, and their inclusion in the respective collections questions the versions of history upheld by the West.
This discrepancy between the collections of photography in art museums and ethnographic museums needs to further be examined. Many Dutch art museums are late to the task of collecting objects from outside the safety of their Eurocentric bubble, however, ethnographic institutions such as the Tropenmuseum and Africa Museum (now both part of the NMVW) have been collecting these objects for a longer time. There are notable exceptions; during the directorate of Willem Sandberg (1945–1963), a number of exhibitions were developed that explored his interest in art and ethnography, but also in artists from Africa and colonized regions.  While these exhibitions resulted in some acquisitions, the discipline of photography seems to have remained spared of these excursions. Despite the fact that the collection encompasses work by pioneering women photographers, including a fair selection of work by nineteenth-century photographer Gertrude Käsebier, as well as twentieth-century photographers Lucia Moholy, Ilse Bing, Emmy Andriesse, and Ata Kandó (n.b. also affiliated with Magnum), it is striking that little to no attention was paid to photographers from marginalized geographies in these early days. Missing also is the work of portrait photographers such as James Van der Zee, Zaida Ben-Yusuf, or Pun Lun Studio. And what of other photographers affiliated with Magnum, such as Ernest Cole, Hiroji Kubota, Lu Nan, and Raghu Rai? Where we are able to follow Koen Wessing through the streets of Santiago, we are unable to view this period through the lens of Chilean photographer Paz Errázuriz. Where we have a photographic document of a civil rights movement press conference from Ernst Haas, we are unable to witness the activists as LeRoy Henderson did. Where we are shown two American soldiers active in the Vietnam War speeding off on their motorbikes in a cloud of dust, courtesy of Capa, we are only able to identify the images of Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut—who documented the horrors of the war—in Martha Rosler’s collage works House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (1967–72) with prior knowledge of his work.
Expanding the collection to right these oversights has its challenges. As a fragile medium, photographs outside of art and journalism have had the habit of escaping the reach of institutions and are easily lost to history—negatives and paper thrown away, destroyed, or deteriorated under climate conditions. The very existence of photographs therefore relies on the presence of someone who has identified their importance and has been willing to become their caretaker. Where the museum might have missed out on the chance of collecting these photographs, loans and collaborations with ethnographic museums are one way in which we can deal with these shortcomings of the photography collection. However, the close ties between the institution of the ethnographic museum and colonialism has come under fire in the recent years, especially in regard to their histories of establishment and the dubious provenances of the objects within their collections. While photographs in ethnographic museums might have been collected with a different intention, such as documentation of historic moments or as an illustration of cultural customs, this does not negate their value in artistic or representational nature. With a collection such as the Stedelijk’s, which so closely relates to social realities, it will be important to toe the thin lines of the historic, ethnographic, and artistic representation that these images may veer into.
An example that comes to mind is the photography of Surinamese photographer Augusta Curiel, who documented life in Paramaribo in the early twentieth century, assisted by her younger sister Anna. The photographs by the Curiel sisters were not collected by the Stedelijk Museum, but instead were collected by the Tropenmuseum and the Rijksmuseum, whose collections focus on ethnography, colonial (material) heritage, and the history of the former Dutch empire. The sisters’ photographs were among the few displayed in the recent Surinaamse School exhibition, brought into the selection through Jessica Abreu, co-founder of the Black Archives. The photographs on display in the exhibition were on loan from NMVW, the Surinamese Museum, and the Black Archives. There is a beautiful black-and-white portrait of a woman wearing a kotomisi, the traditional dress of Creole-Surinamese women, standing on a path surrounded by palm trees. It is undeniable that these photographs would have been an enrichment to the collection, valuable in their documentary capacity, but also artistically in relation to early portraiture, and specifically early portrait photography of the lives of (colonial) subjects that counter the white gaze that is so dominant throughout the collection.
In her essay “In Our Glory: Photography and Black Life,” intersectional activist and scholar bell hooks ruminates on the power of photographic self-representation:
The camera was the central instrument by which blacks could disprove representations of us created by white folks. The degrading images of blackness that emerged from racist white imagination and that were circulated widely in the dominant culture […] could be countered by “true-to-life” images. […] Though rarely articulated as such, the camera became in black life a political instrument, a way to resist misrepresentation as well as a means by which alternative images could be produced. 
Following hooks, there needs to be more awareness about the politics of representation.  While focusing on the use of photographs in the private sphere of the home, hooks points out two additional considerations: the use of photography to create counter-images in the private realm was influenced by a history of segregation in which only dominant visual narratives were circulated publicly and institutionally, and that these narratives persisted even past desegregation due to hierarchies of power. So despite the fact that Curiel’s photographs were collected and the photographer enjoyed recognition from the Dutch royal house, the very fact that they landed in ethnographic collections instead of those concerned with art is telling of the continued difference in reception based on geographical origin and the ensuing politics of collecting.
Where an expression of a universal human experience of birth, life, work, and death might have been central to Steichen’s concept of The Family of Man, this modernist belief has made way for the recognition that our experiences and treatment in a world that is governed by systems and hierarchies created during and upheld by colonialism and its painful legacy greatly differ.
Going forward, the complicity of the Western construct of the art museum within the circulation of images needs to be recognized and addressed, and steps need to be taken to counter the biased narratives that the collection and its exhibition has upheld for the past sixty-three years. Working from within the system, the art museum as a historical bastion of knowledge has the responsibility to move into a space to facilitate and reflect on these discussions. In reflecting on the role of photography in the arts, the contemporary curator of photography is now tasked with the navigation of both the historical collection decisions made in the past that were colored by the sociopolitical environment of the time and facing the challenge of contextualizing them by analyzing the narratives that they and their circulation perpetuates. Being mindful of the after-image, acquisition or loans of works by photographers from marginalized backgrounds—currently minorities in the collection—can counter the dominant narratives and place these into perspective. In researching the creation and acquisition circumstances of photographs and their prior display and circulation, the curator is able to critically reflect on the power dynamics at play and share these with the viewer. This form of mediation on the part of the curator can assist audiences in dissecting the relationship between the photographer and the photographed, and the sociopolitical power structures in which these images were produced, circulated, and legitimized. Supplying audiences with more information on the workings of photography and empowering them to be able to see these photographs through the postcolonial lens enables them to become more aware of the politics of representation. Looking after images, caring for them, also means looking past them.
Fabienne Chiang previously worked at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam as Interim Assistant Curator of Photography and Interim Curator of Contemporary Art. Chiang’s interests in art manifest in a cross-disciplinary capacity, with a strong focus on visual expressions and narratives that expose, critique, and undermine power structures in society at large. The curator and art writer has previously researched and published on artistic practices that grapple with oppressive histories of photographic representation, and are aimed at reclaiming the contested medium of photography.
 See also Hripsimé Visser, Fotografie in het Stedelijk: De geschiedenis van een collectie (Amsterdam/Rotterdam: NAi Uitgevers, 2009).
 Hripsimé Visser, internal memo “Beleidsstuk 2020” (unpublished).
 Ariella Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography (New York: Zone Books, 2008), 89–94.
 Here, the word “primitive” refers to the way that it was used ideologically to position Western society at the helm of development, in line with the modernist, settler-colonial belief in linear and empirically measurable progress. According to anthropologist Adam Kuper, this way of thinking posits that “primitivism” is “[…] the true antithesis to modernity. Modern society was defined above all by the territorial state, the monogamous family and private property. Primitive society must therefore have been nomadic, ordered by blood ties, sexually promiscuous and communist. There had also been a progression in mentality. Primitive man was illogical and superstitious. Traditional societies were in thrall to religion. Modernity, however, was the age of science.” Adam Kuper, The Reinvention of Primitive Societies, 2nd ed. (Oxford/New York: Routledge, 2005), 11. The creation of this dichotomy between “modernism” and “primitivism” was often used as a justification of colonial conquests and “Othering” of local populations. See also Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).
 Said, Orientalism.
 Ed van der Elsken, Bagara, 1st ed., English version (London/New York/Toronto: Abelard-Schumann, 1961), dust jacket.
 Frans Hals Museum, “Ed van Der Elsken, Bagara 1957: 45 photographs of Africa,” exhibition page, last accessed on 5 dec 2021.
 Julien conducted experiments on Central African foragers in Sierra Leone in order to “research what the place was of African tribes in the evolution of mankind” (translation mine). Anoushka van Bemmel, “Dr. Paul Julien, de op één na laatste ontdekkingsreizigers: Een portret van een 97-jarige Nederlandse ‘avonturier,’” Telegraaf (September 12, 1998), last accessed on 5 dec 2021. Julien published four volumes on his discoveries and observations and was invited to retell his stories on the Katholieke Radio Omroep, a Dutch radio broadcaster.
 Ariella Azoulay, “The Family of Man: A Visual Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” in The Human Snapshot, eds. Thomas Keenan and Tirdad Zolghadr (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013), 19–48.
 Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography, 33.
 Ibid., 32.
 Neokonkwo’s activist statement was reproduced in Eric J. Sandeen, Picturing an Exhibition: The Family of Man and 1950s America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995), 155.
 Emily Ratajkowski, “Buying Myself Back: When does a model own her own image?,” The Cut (September 15, 2020), last accessed on 5 dec 2021.
 Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography, 105–106.
 Ibid., 86.
 For additional material reflecting critically on images of suffering, see Heather Diack and Erina Duganne, “Not Just Pictures: Reassessing critical models for 1980s photography,” Photographies 10, no. 3 (2017): 235–238; James Johnson, ‘“The Arithmetic of Compassion’: Rethinking the Politics of Photography,” British Journal of Political Science 41, no. 3 (2011): 621–637; and Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Picador, 2003).
 Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography, 116.
 Ibid., 85-86.
 Ibid., 167.
 Roland Barthes, “Rhetoric of the Image,” in Image-Music-Text, trans. Stephan Heath (London: Fontana Press, 1977), 32–51.
 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story,” TEDGlobal speech, July 2009, 18:33 (from 9:12 onward), last accessed on 5 dec 2021.
 Author and researcher Reggie Baay published an essay on Cartier-Bresson’s visit to Indonesia and his photographic depiction of the end of the colonial occupation on the occasion of the 2018 exhibition The Djaya Brothers: Revolusi in the Stedelijk. See Reggie Baay, “The Power of the Photographic Image: Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Indonesian Photographs,” Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam – Longreads (June 5, 2018), last accessed on 5 dec 2021.
 Mattie Boom, “Willem Diepraam, a Slow Photographer,” in Willem Diepraam: 50 Years of Photography (Amsterdam: self-published, 2020), 5.
 Willem Diepraam, “Van fotograaf tot verzamelaar en verder [From Photographer to Collector and Beyond],” Jong Holland (1999): 4.
 Mark Sealy, Decolonising the Camera: Photography in Racial Time, (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 2019), 214–215.
 Jelle Bouwhuis, “The Global Turn and the Stedelijk Museum,” in Changing Perspectives: Dealing with Globalisation in the Presentation and Collection of Contemporary Art, ed. Mariska ter Horst (Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2012), 156–157.
 bell hooks, “In Our Glory: Photography and Black Life,” Art on My Mind: Visual Politics (New York: The New Press, 1995), 59–60.
 Ibid., 58–59.
Fabienne Chiang, ‘After(-)Images: Problematizing Collections of Early Documentary Photography in the Art Museum” Stedelijk Studies Journal 11 (2022). DOI: 10.54533/StedStud.vol011.art02. This contribution is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.
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