Modern subjects

Lights, camera and … ‘Ethical’ rule!

in Photographic subjects
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The personal association between Queen Wilhelmina and the Ethical Policy, a doctrine of liberal reform that she announced early in her reign (in 1901), is examined in this chapter for how it manifested in royal celebrations. At the start of her reign, lanterns and gaslights at royal pageants marked a continuation of centuries-old festival practices in both the East Indies and the Netherlands. However, the electrification of the Indies proceeded apace under Wilhelmina’s rule. This chapter uses published commemorative books, photographs taken by colonial officials who orchestrated festivals, and amateur private photographs to show how the electrification of the Indies was photographed on annual Queen’s Day celebrations and at other milestones of Wilhelmina’s reign. The spectacular uses of night photography in particular gave colonial photographers an opportunity to show how ‘modern’ the East Indies was, more so even than the Netherlands, and thus to celebrate the ‘progress’ made under the Ethical Policy. Photography articulated a complex association between modernisation, benevolent Dutch colonialism and the monarchy in ways that refused the peripheral status of the Indies relative to the metropole.

Photographic subjects

Monarchy and visual culture in colonial Indonesia

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