Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire

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While the cultural history of the British Empire has recently attracted much interest, relatively little attention has been paid to the significance of its visualization. Yet the Empire was pictured across a wide spectrum of imagery, from paintings to postcards, maps to documents. Focusing on the role of photography, this wide-ranging book explores the aesthetics of empire.

The development of photography in the Victorian era coincided with the dramatic expansion of the British Empire. Photography assisted in the exploration, surveying and mapping of territory and the representation of imperial landscapes. To audiences hungry for glimpses of a rapidly expanding world, photographs seemed to capture distant realities, rendering them accessible. And while administrators and anthropologists used photography to picture‘racial types’, soldiers and hunters armed themselves with cameras in order to capture photographic ‘trophies’ of natives and animals.

Drawing on a broad range of visual imagery, including many previously unpublished photographs, James Ryan shows how photographic practices and aesthetics can express and articulate the ideologies of imperialism.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherReaktion Books
Number of pages272
ISBN (Electronic)9781780231631
ISBN (Print)9781861890092
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 1997

Publication series

NamePicturing History
PublisherReaktion Books


  • Imperialism -- Historiography
  • Photography -- Great Britain -- Colonies -- History
  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- Historiography
  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- History -- Pictorial works


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