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An Orientalist Photograph Was Taken Out of Context

Ouissal Harize Ouissal Harize
4th March 2023
An Orientalist Photograph Was Taken Out of Context
The Orientalist photographer staged the scene and models (Twitters)

The Claim

A photo shows a naked child slave assisting her old owner in cleaning up before prayer.

Emerging story

Social media users recently widely shared a claim purporting that a photo shows a naked child slave. According to the claim, the slave was assisting her old owner, who is cleaning up before prayer.

A supporting image within the article body
A supporting image within the article body

Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar investigated the circulating claim and found it to be misleading. The photo is an orientalist photograph staged and taken by the French photographer Eugène Chatelain.

Eugene Chatelain’s Orientalist Photographs 

Upon conducting a reverse image search, Misbar’s team found that the photo is displayed in renowned art websites and platforms such as “Artnet” and attributed to the French journalist and photographer Eugène Chatelain. The photograph is titled “Adda et le vieillard,” French for “Adda and the Old Man.”

A supporting image within the article body

According to Artnet, the photo was taken circa 1910. No further details are mentioned. There is no available context regarding the religion of the models.

Chatelain is known for staging naked models in countries such as Tunisia as part of a colonial trend of orientalist exotic photographs.

Orientalist Photography and Colonialism 

Orientalist photography is a form of visual representation that perpetuates colonial power dynamics and reinforces stereotypes about non-Western cultures. 

The photographers who traveled to colonial territories often depicted the local people and landscapes through a lens of exoticism and otherness, emphasizing their supposed difference from the Western norm. 

This type of photography served to support colonial projects of domination and subjugation. Furthermore, it often erased the agency and dignity of the colonized subjects.

One of the most influential critics of “orientalism” was Edward Said, a Palestinian-American scholar and intellectual who wrote extensively on the relationship between the West and the East. 

In his seminal book “Orientalism,” Said argued that Western representations of the East, including photography, were not objective reflections of reality, but rather ideological constructs that served to justify colonialism and imperialism. 

The Algerian critic Malek Alloula further explored the theme of orientalism in his book “The Colonial Harem.” Alloula criticizes the colonialist tradition of exotic and orientalist photography that transgressed the colonized to please colonial fantasies.  

The circulating image is a great example because the photographer had decided to strip an underage child of clothes. 

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