Image: A Chinese Maiden

William Henry Jackson
A Chinese Maiden

photochrom on paper
3.5 x 7 in.
Gift of Peter M. Baillon

William Henry Jackson was best known for his exploration photography of the West. During this time, tourist photography became a way for people in America to learn about other countries that they couldn’t travel to. Photographers would take pictures of what they believed best represented that country. This photochrom photograph is an example of problematic stereotyping of cultures that leads to Orientalism and racism in the United States. Photochrom is a photographic process where they use chromolithography on a black and white image. This indicates that the photographer’s choice of color for the girl’s skin is a reflection of racist profiling in industrial America.

According to the strain in the girl’s eyebrows and the frown on her face as well as the nervous fiddling with her toy, it is assumed that the photographer didn’t ask to take her picture; he expected her consent. Her non-verbal gaze communicates a hidden message that the photographer chose to ignore.

Abigail C. Schilling ‘19
Lasting Legacy 2019