Undergraduate Degree



DD8007           From Colonialism to Tourism: Early Photography in Asia


[Lectures: 39 hours; Pre-requisites: Nil; Academic Unit: 3.0]  


Academic Unit                         :           3 AU


Pre-requisite                            :           Nil


Course Description                 :


Learning Objective

Students will learn the basic critical toolbox in Art History—visual analysis and comparison—with which they will begin to understand an object and craft an argument based on their visual experiences.  Moreover, through reading assignments, weekly response papers, presentations, and research papers, students will learn to discuss and critically analyze images and texts by key writers who have shaped the field of nineteenth-century photography.



This course focuses on the relationships between photography and colonialism and will examine how photographic images participated as discursive objects in various colonial contexts in multiple formats such albums, surveys, postcards, and stereoscopic cards. How did popular postcards made for the tourist market produce a rhetoric of difference between Westerners and non-European peoples and places? How do the verbal markers such as captions on postcards and text that frame images in albums and stereoscopic cards participate in the colonial constructions of racial, cultural, and geographical difference?  This course will also look at a diverse range of images by not only Western photographers, but also local photographers and to study if local photographers continue to construct their subjects as objects of fascination and spectacle? Structured as a series of case studies, this course will engage with such questions and other notions about nineteenth-century photography.


Course Outline




Introduction to Photography and Visual Analysis


Photographing People


Photographing Monuments and Landscapes


Postcards and Stereoscopic Cards


Case Study: A Local Photographer


Singapore through Nineteenth-century Photographs and Postcards


Photographing Southeast Asia


Photography and postcards on China


Photography and Imperial Portraiture


Photographing Korea


Felice Beato in Japan


Local Photographers from Japan


Student Presentations

Learning Outcome

  • Students will learn how to do visual analyses of photographic objects in diverse contexts and learn the skills of articulating their understanding through writing research papers.

  • In addition to learning a basic methodology in art history—the comparison of images—the course will also introduce students to methods of researching, quoting, paraphrasing, and citing textual sources. Students will learn how to use search engines such as WorldCat, JSTOR, Art Index Retrospective, Art Full Text, and other relevant search engines to locate books and articles for this final essay.

  • Students will develop the art of asking questions, discovering the answers in the object under examination, and learning how to describe an image in great detail; the basis for crafting a claim or a thesis statement about the image for this three-page assignment. 

  • Combining visual analysis with textual evidence, students will learn to develop a sustainable position and organize their thoughts and evidence in a persuasive fashion. The goal of this longer essay is to successfully integrate the reading of images and texts, argumentative writing, reading, research, and revision.


Student Assessment

Students will be assessed by :

Visual Analysis: 20%

[A visual analysis introduces students to the field of art history through the close reading of one object.  This technique of asking questions about the object and providing answers (i.e. visual evidence) found in the object is introduced in the very first class, and students will continue practicing this basic tool in art history throughout the semester with various types of images.]

Comparison: 30%

[Students will be assigned to compare two objects of the instructor’s choice or of the student’s choice, and they will learn how to create a thesis statement based on such a comparison.  In addition to learning a basic methodology in art history—the comparison of images—this essay will also provide an opportunity to introduce students to using textual sources.]

Weekly Summaries/Response Papers: 20%

[Students will be required to bring in weekly summaries/response papers based on that particular week’s readings: this could consist of a brief summary and a response to one or two issues that the student found particularly interesting in the readings.  Students could also include certain questions that they thought of while reading the text.]

Presentations: 20%

Participation: 10%



Cody, Jeffrey W. and Frances Terpak, eds. Brush and Shutter Early Photography in China. Edited by . Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust, 2011.

India Through the Lens Photography 1840-1911. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 2000.

Falconer, John. India: Pioneering Photographers. 1850-1900. London: The British Library, 2001.

Falconer, John. A Vision of the Past: A History of Early Photography in Singapore and Malaya. The Photographs of G. R. Lambert & Co., 1880-1910. Singapore: Times Editions, 1987.

Colonialist Photography: Imag(in)ing Race and Place, London: Routledge, 2002



, Grace. Picturing the Chinese: Early Western Photographs and postcards of China. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing (H. K.) Co. Ltd., 2008. 

Traces of India: Photography, Architecture, and the Politics of Representation, 1850-1900. Montreal and New Haven: Canadian Center for 

 Architecture and Yale Center for British Art, 2003.

Rousmaniere, Nicole Coolidge and Mikoko Hirayama, eds. Reflecting Truth: Japanese Photography in the Nineteenth Century. Amsterdam: Hotei, 2004. 

Toh, Jason, Singapore Through 19th-century Photographs. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2009. 

Worswick, Clark. Princely India: Photographs by Raja Deen Dayal 1884-1910. New York: Knopf, 1980.