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10 Sketches of Indochina From the 19th Century

Though already in existence, cameras were not the main tool used by the French to make visual records of their holdings in Indochina during the 19th century. In their infancy during this time, their fragile and expensive nature made cameras a rarity, especially when traversing Vietnam's dense jungles, winding rivers and treacherous mountains. Instead, sketches, like the ones in the slideshow below, were used to capture images of the region


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Interestingly, compared to photographs, sketches lend much more creative freedom to their maker and reality can be easily skewed and prejudices displayed. Many of the photos in this set portray locals as curious savages, imagery that was popular across the colonial world as it fit comfortably into the narrative of Europe's role in spreading Christianity and 'progress' to 'uncivilized' corners of the globe.

If one can divorce these pictures from their racist overtones (or accept them as an historical artifact), they add value in showing us how colonial powers visually perceived other ethnicities and cultures. 

You can see more pictures from this set over at Vietweek's Google+ page.

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