Double Exposures: A History of Photography in the Colonial Congo


Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art


Arts, Culture and Media


The history of photography in Africa has primarily been understood as an opposition between colonial stereotypes and African counter-visions. Taking the Belgian Congo as its subject, this book argues that the medium has also been the instrument of an ambiguous proximity between metropole and colony, not only in the hands of Europeans, but also in those of Africans. A paradoxical reaction against the worldwide diffusion of the “Congo atrocities” pictures (1904–1908), the development of a redeeming and seductive iconography of colonial “intimacy” is examined through the Belgian Congo’s illustrated press and state photographic agency, together with Congolese families’ albums. By cross-examining European and African photography, my project re-evaluates colonial regimes’ visual strategies, as well as redefines the formation of modern African subjectivities as a dialogue at the intersection of two usually contraposed impulses: imperial propaganda and African self-imaging. The book is based on research carried out in Belgium and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.