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Surveys and romance: Methodist missionaries´ photographs of the South American “field” in the early 20th century

Surveys and romance: fotografías del “campo” sudamericano por los misioneros metodistas a principios del siglo XX
Surveys and romance : la photographie du « champ » sud-américain par les missionnaires méthodistes, au début du 20e siècle
Didier Aubert

Résumés

C´est sans doute à partir du début des années 20 que les différents Boards of Missions de l´Eglise Méthodiste Episcopale nord-américaine compilèrent quelque 250 albums photographiques. Aujourd´hui, ces volumes constituent une documentation visuelle exceptionnelle, qui témoigne de la vie des missionnaires dans les divers ¨champs¨ où ils étaient envoyés, et oùils espéraient étendre non seulement leur propre version du Protestantisme, mais aussi ce que beaucoup considéraient comme la forme la plus avancée de la civilisation moderne.Cet article se concentre sur un petit échantillon d´images choisies parmi les premières pages des albums ¨Sud-Américains¨, qui rendent compte de l´activité missionnaire déployée du nord du Brésil au sud du Chili.Après un bref rappel des liens étroits qui existaient entre cette entreprise évangélisatrice et la création d´un empire nord-américain de type informel dans l´Amérique du Sud du début du 20e siècle, l´analyse des deux pages d´ouverture du tout premier album suggère que ces photographies, accumulées par les missionnaires et mises en forme par leur hiérarchie new-yorkaise, poursuivaient au moins deux objectifs apparemment contradictoires : contribuer à l´orientation « scientifique » et sociale prise par les principaux mouvements missionnaires de l´époque, tout en préservant malgré tout l´héritage d´une vision plus romantique, une romance, de la vocation missionnaire.

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Notes de l’auteur

This paper is based on research conducted in the archives of the General Commission on Archives and History of the Methodist Church, housed at Drew University. It is part of an ongoing project which focuses mostly on the photographic documentation of Methodist missions in Chile. I am extremely grateful for the patient, friendly and efficient help extended to me by the entire staff at the archives, especially L. Dale Patterson, Mark Shenise, Frances Lyons-Bristol, and Christopher J. Anderson. This research was made possible by a Florence Ellen Bell Grant from Drew´s Theology School, support from PéhuenEditores and funding provided by the TransferSLabex(ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02PSL* et ANR-10-LABEX-0099).

Texte intégral

Introduction

1Beginning in the late 1870´s, with the pioneering and somewhat unconventional attempts by Reverend William Taylor to establish self-supporting churches in cities such as Callao (Peru), Coquimbo, and Valparaiso (Chile), the US Methodist Episcopal Church undertook to evangelize the Andes and the Southern Cone region. After various evangelical enterprises in Australia and India, Taylor sailed down the Pacific coast in 1877,making stops in Panama and Bolivia along the way, to establish contacts with English-speaking communities who might be able to plant the first seeds of “progress” and true Christianity. By the late 1880´s, work in Spanish, directed at the local population, began in places such as La Serena and Iquique, on the Chilean coast (Feinman P., 2009; Kessler J.-B., 1967: 101; LaFetra I., 1894: 26-28). In 1893, the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Church decided to take over these autonomous congregations. At the time, around 40 missionaries were working in the country, which was part of the newly organized “South America Conference.” Thirty years later, following a request by the Chilean church, a Central Latin American Conference was created, thus openingthe way for the autonomy of South American churches from the New York-based Board of Missions (Copplestone J. T., 1973: 581; Harmon, N., 1974: 470-1; Snow, F., 1999: 20-26).

2The heritage of the Methodist missions in South America can still be found throughout the continent in the form of buildings, schools, publications and congregations which were established at the turn of the 20th century. It was also constituted as a remarkable visual narrative found in the large albums which were used to collect and classify pictures (mostly photographs) sent by Methodist missionaries.

  • 1 The Boards of Foreign and Home Missions created 256 albums in all, which contain about 250,000 pict (...)

3The small sample of images that will be analyzed in the following paragraphs was placed by anonymous hands on theopening two pages of South American album # 1of the Methodist archives, housed at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.1 The way these albums came to exist is a story that still holds many mysteries, because most of the original documents and records they originally came with are now missing (Kaplan, D., 1982: 7-9)Based on the binding and covers–which are now lost–it is generally believed that they were created in the 1930´s, although many of the photographs are much older.

  • 2 As a matter of fact, the collection of material and visual artefacts for this Methodist version of (...)

4The reason why thiscollection offers a unique insight into the experience and heritage of Methodist missionary work in South America at the time is that photographs were crucial conveyors of missionary culture. Most of these images were meant, primarily, as tools for publicity and fund-raising for various activities (evangelization, education, and health programs, notably). The spectacular use of visual media in the Centenary Celebration of Methodist Missions held in Columbus, Ohio, at the height of the American missionary movement (1919), testifies eloquently to the fact that the Church was perfectly aware of the power of pictures in the new age of mass communication (Anderson, C., 2006: 1-38, “From the Archives”, 2013: 125-129).2 Yet the research that I have been conducting over the last few years leads me to suggest that these photographs played other functions that are worth exploring. They were usedto mediate institutional organization, as the Boards of Mission were becoming increasingly complex bureaucracies. They also helped maintain and reinforcepersonal and family connections, and they allowed missionaries to create a sense of community among themselves and to forge bonds with their Chilean converts, celebrating the beauty of God´s work on the entire American continent (and beyond), as well as denouncing social abuses and religious superstition. Finally, they now provide scholars with a history of Methodist missions which results from a combination of the missionaries´ own vision (since they provided most of the pictures) and the New York Board´s visual re-creation of foreign fields (since the albums were put together by the missionaries´ hierarchy). As they circulated between North and South, but also within Protestant circles in the U.S. and South America, these photographs helped to create an imagined, transnational Methodist community. As a result, this complex, collective self-portrait is notonly an attempt to constitute an official record of missionary work.The albums also give us a glimpse of the lives led by the missionaries themselves, and a sense of the cultural constructions that informed Methodist missionary work.

5This last point is the main focus of the following analysis. After a brief reminder of the close relations between the missionary enterprise and the creation of an informal empire by the US in South America at the turn of the 20th century, I will look at the opening two pages of the first South American album to suggest that the photographs served at least two contradictory purposes at once: contributing to the “scientific” turn taken by missionary movements at the time, while simultaneously constructing a romance of mission based on emotional ties and heroic models. As was the case with contemporary photographs of the West, these complex visual narratives suggest that what South American missions “had been was more alluring… than what [they] might yet be.” (Sandweiss, M., 2002, 338). This sense of a changing era, at the time when the Methodist Church advertised itself as the herald of progress, was tinged with nostalgia in mission fields such as the Pacific coast of South America, where the romance of William Taylor’s independent and self-supporting missions was still a vivid reference in the Methodist albums.

The Heritage of Protestant Civilization

6Let us begin with the big picture, and return briefly to William Taylor’s pioneering efforts; or rather, let us turn to his biographer Goodsil F. Arms–a missionary to Chile himself–who published his History of the William Taylor Self-Supporting Missions in South America in 1921, probably around the time when the albums were created. Arms´ narrative puts Taylor in the footsteps of one of his contemporaries, Congregationalist best-selling author Josiah Strong.The latter´s books, whetherOur Country (1885) orthe New Era of the Coming Kingdom (1893), expressed in no uncertain terms the United States´responsibility in taking over the propagation of Anglo-Saxon values throughout the uncivilized world. Arms writes that Taylor himself saw the “sister continent” of South America as a territory “lying in darkness, neglected, separated from all other lands by great oceans, but joined to North America by the Divine Hand that placed the oceans and formed the lands.”(Arms. G.F., 1921: 4). Thus, geography was a design of Providence, and the Latin races would find their salvation through the benign assistance of their God-inspired neighbor. Missionaries were thereforeideally suited for this civilizing role since, according to Arms, the main difference between North and South was the “wide open Bible:”

(South America) is joined to our land by similar conditions of birth and development of national life. Both Americas were occupied by Indian races. Both were discovered and colonized by people from Europe. Both secured their independence from European monarchies and organized themselves into republics. Their commercial and industrial conditions in many respects have been similar.
But the republic to the north with the wide open Bible, with the pure light of God´s Word, free to examine and free in conscience, has grown strong and has stepped to the forefront of the most advanced Christian civilization, while the republics to the south, with a closed Bible, and without equal opportunities of education and freedom of thought, have made little progress. (Arms, G.F., 1921: 11-12)

7The Methodists´ peculiar talent for “rationalizing the emergence of the American empire as a missionary necessity,” underlined by historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom, finds a beautiful illustration in these two paragraphs (Ahlstrom, S., 1972: 879). As is well-known, the links between missionary endeavors and the formation of an interventionist American foreign policy at the turn of the 20th century were varied (Bastian, 1994: 151). Joseph L. Grabill suggested a long time ago that American missionaries were key figures in the new role taken by the United States on the world stage, writing that “American churches gave benevolent and technical assistance overseas, forming unconsciously an advance guard for possible direct action by Washington” (Grabill, J.L., 1971: 3). More recently, Emily Rosenberg painted a comprehensive panorama of the combined dynamics of political, cultural and economic concerns in the Spreading the American Dream, where she insisted that American missionarieswere “cultural expansionists” who worked most efficiently when associated withtheir fellow “economic expansionists” (Rosenberg, E., 1982: 32, 119).

8That the extension of Protestantism should go hand in hand with the march of American progress was a fairly obvious proposition for the various missionary movements which spread in the late 19th century, at a time when YMCA director John R. Mott was hoping to evangelize the world “in one generation” (Mott, J.R., 1901). By the early 1910´s, in his Theory and Practice of Mission, James Buckley quoted University of Wisconsin professor James Reinsch to argue that:

  • 3 On Reinsch´s influence, see Brian C. Schmidt, 2005. To see the original quote in context, see Paul (...)

There is a measure of truth in the saying that the flag follows the missionary, and trade follows the flag (…) As the priority of appearance of a nation on unappropriated soil is of great importance under the doctrine of preoccupation, the emissaries of religion who begin the civilizing process are, under the present exaggerated conditions of competition, most valuable advance pickets of national expansion.(Buckley, J., 1911: 114).3

9This straightforward justification of missionary work as a stepping-stone for a “civilizing process,” which was both nationalistic and economic in nature gives us the first key to the interpretation of the images found in the first pages of the South American albums. The political map on page one does show political frontiers, as well as the main rivers of the continent, yet it is an almost blank space open to what Reinsch calls “preoccupation,” the appropriation of territory yet unclaimed. This image of the continent as virgin landseems to be calling for the advanceofthe Bible and civilization.

Figure 1 : Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Mission Photograph Album - South America #1 page 1

Figure 1 : Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Mission Photograph Album - South America #1 page 1

Source: UMC Digital Galleries, http://catalog.gcah.org/​omeka/​items/​show/​14843. Accessed June 22, 2015.

10On the second page, this idea is reinforced by a picture captioned Alcalufas Indians of Lower Patagonia, which establishes a parallel between the Southern tip of the continent and the North-American Frontier, where Methodist missionaries had been converting native people since the early 19th century (Thomas, N. E., 2010: 114). The picture of a rock formation called “Cape Storm,” and labeled the “further end of the Americas” echoes the theme of the “last”American frontier, as the continent is taken in its entirety.

Figure 2 : Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Mission Photograph Album - South America #1 page 2

Figure 2 : Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Mission Photograph Album - South America #1 page 2

Source: UMC Digital Galleries, ttp://catalog.gcah.org/omeka/items/show/14844. Accessed June 22, 2015.

Surveying South America: Social Gospel, Social Science and Mission Work

11The picture of the Longshoremen playing cards–the first image in the album actually showing South American citizens–helps establish from the start the role of the church as a social as well as a religiousinstitution. The fact that these very young-looking men are playing cards on the street, instead of attending one of the church´s fairly successful schools on the continent, is consistent with the strong element of cultural and moral reform which was part of the Methodist crusade in the region.

12As far as the Methodists´ representation of their own work in South America is concerned, this picture is remarkable because it creates a precedent. Only a very small percentage of the photographs taken in South America actually depict religious activities, be it campaigns of evangelization, open-air sermons, or strictly religious ceremonies among the various congregations. These longshoremen are portrayed as presenting the symptoms of a social problem which the moral influence of Protestantism will help cure through various institutions such as schools and dispensaries.

  • 4 This was all the more relevant on a continent which was increasingly obsessed with la cuestión soci (...)

13This is crucial insofar as the turn of the 20th century was defined, among most Protestant denominations in the United States, by the predominance of the “Social Gospel” which laid the emphasis on the necessity to apply religious principles to economic and social issues rather than individual conversion and salvation (McGuire, W., 1981). The Methodists themselves adopted a “Social Creed” which demanded, among other things, a limitation of working hours, obligatory measures of arbitration in case of labor conflict, and the elimination of child labor. One of the main consequences of this approach was the Methodist emphasis on education–not only as a way to help finance evangelical work (Taylor´s original plan) but also to spread Protestant values beyond the limited confines of a small community of converts (Bruno-Jofré, R., 1988; Norwood, F., 1974: 354-5).4This was all the more relevant on a continent which was increasingly obsessed with la cuestión social. As widespread processes of urbanization and industrialization were now obvious in countries such as Chile and Argentina, for example, the necessity to counteract its most problematic consequences inspired various responses, either from the more conservative, Catholic sectors of the population inspired by Leon XIII’s RerumNovarum (1891), or from the emerging middle-class turning rather to the state–both groups trying to prevent the radicalization of the urban working-class in the mines and harbors on which the oligarchy’s wealth depended (ArchilaNeira, M., 2008: 270-83; GrezToso, S., 1995 : 24-44; Suriano, J, 2000). Social Protestantism, which was part of a large-scale transatlantic movement which flourished between the United States and Europe, found a promising, if complicated, field of action in this new South American context (Rodgers D., 1999: 63-72; Bruno-Jofre R., 1984: 92-102).

14This major shift in the Methodist perception of their mission also implied the introduction of increasingly “scientific” methods of management, data gathering and accounting. The rage of the times was the survey–a term borrowed from social scientists, and which described large-scale studies of specific “fields” (towns and cities, foreign countries, sometimes entire continents) through modern methods–statistics, sociology, anthropology (Bulmer, M., 2001; Bateman, B., 2001). Both the 1916 Congress on Christian Work in Latin America held in Panama, and its 1925 counterpart in Montevideo were based on massive fact-gathering efforts throughout the continent. Statistics were collected, maps were drawn, and reports on all topics relating to mission work were written and discussed to devise strategies and maximize the efficiency of the various protestant denominations´ efforts.

15The report of the 1916 Congress explained the need for accurate information the following way:

Even the most travelled among missionaries do not know exactly how the various stations are located — perhaps not even the stations in their own national division. Wall maps should be made, unless accurate maps are already at hand, to show the territory to be occupied in its relation to that already held ; to mark lines of intercommunication between possible future stations which will promote the economy of time and strength in itineration; to indicate the location of various tribes ; to indicate orographically the elevations and the marshy depressions ; to show the location of proposed stations in their relation to neighboring towns and villages; and to indicate the sparsity and density of population. Such items, when visually displayed, will constitute an argument for a great campaign and its scientific basis.(Christian Work, 1916: 188).

16This ambitious program, which is part of the “survey and occupation” section of the report, is very representative of the strategic approach chosen by the major missionary movements operating in South America at the time. A few pages later, the military logic evoked earlier is made explicit:

Christian strategy demands in missions as in war that the territory should be known in geographical, racial and religious aspects before locating further forces(Ibid, 213, emphasis mine).

17This cursory reminder of the survey movement as part of the early 20th-century missionary movement, as well as social work in general, is a necessary detour to explain why collecting photographs was a necessity. Pictures were used as evidence and descriptive tools showing the geographical and social reality encountered on the field, and they were published in magazines, leaflets and various illustrated documents that publicized the work and helped obtain funding among US congregations. Knowledge was to serve as publicity. The number system found in the albums is one of the few remaining clues pointing to this ambition to create an efficient file of readily usable images for various institutionally useful purposes. Traces of cross-referencing numbers testify both to this concern and to the difficulty of finding a consistent system for “cataloguing accumulations of photographs which threatened to overwhelm.” (Tagg, 2012: 29).

Figure 3: Listing of photographs found in “Mission Photograph Album - South America #8. Dated 1929-1932

Figure 3: Listing of photographs found in “Mission Photograph Album - South America #8. Dated 1929-1932

Source: United Methodist Church Archives - GCAH, Madison, New Jersey

18It is thus fair to say that the missions should be ranked as one of the various “enterprises of knowledge” which were deployed by US economic, scientific and religious institutions in the region at the time–the emblematic example of which being of course Hiram Bingham´s “discovery” of the Machu Picchu under the auspices of Yale University and National Geographic (Salvatore, R., 2006). The photographs were meant in part to map out the field of evangelistic work, in a region which all the leaders of the missionary movement considered poorly known by their home base and American public opinion in general. The evidentiary nature of the photographic image provided documentary value to this record of exploration and conquest.

The Romance of Mission: a Vanishing Heritage

19Together with the “Cape Storm” picture, another photograph depicting natural wonders is entitled Mount Balmaceda near the end of navigation, Region of Ultima Esperanza. Evidently, this additional variation on the theme of the frontier and the “end of the world”is meant tosuggest the romanticism of the far away landscapes of southern Patagonia. The perfectly symmetrical composition and the classic reflection effect on the still water suggest the work of a professional photographer, and evoke, possibly, the Western Survey photographs of the 1860s (Brunet, F., 2007). Additionally, the region is also the place where the Alcalufa natives shown on the second page used to live. Thus the photograph understood as ethnographic record of the local population (and potential converts) also works as a “memento of the race” suggesting its probable extinction. As is well-known, the anthropological impulse which seems to inform so many photographic archives was very often associated with a nostalgic representation of lost tribes and territories (Sandweiss, M., 2002: 217-9; Menard A., &Pavez, J., 2007 : 14). The “Last Hope Region,” depicted under its Spanish name, casts a dramatic shadow over the Protestant enterprise at the “end of the word,” as Patagonia is often called. The geographical survey described earlier takes on a decidedly romantic dimension, and the stage is now set for the Methodist preachers´ perilous mission of faith and civilization on the last frontier of America. Portrayed in this case as a wandering, vanishing tribe—as were North American Natives pictured by Edward S. Curtis at the same time—these Alacalufes help set the epic and romantic tone which was frequent in the representations of turn-of-the-century fueguinos (Alvarado, 2007: 35), and became part of the Methodist collection, especially in the first albums.

20Two missionary portraits can be found in these opening pages. One of them shows Punta Arenas missionary John Lewis Reeder reading to his son a letter he received from home. Let us simply notethat it establishes at the outset the necessary and yet fragile link between the missionary stationed in South America and what could be called the “home front” of the Methodist war of evangelization. This connection is vital on various counts: not only did home congregations finance the missionary enterprise, but the administrative and personal archives of the Methodist church make it abundantly clear that one of the main problems of the institution was to manage the personal and family relations of its ministers. Distance from relatives, health problems, irregular incomes were only the most obvious complications that could arise. Thousands of miles from home, men like Reeder relied heavily on the mail, on missionary publications and on personal photographs to maintain a sense of community with fellow Methodists in the field and in the United States.

21The sentimental connection afforded by the constant exchange of mail and pictures was just as crucial to the visual economy of mission photography as its documentation and publicity values. For such long-term missionaries as the Reeders (1897-1924), letters and photographs combined institutional concerns and personal commitment. A 1913 letter written by John Reeder’s wife Marian to her mission board’s corresponding secretary William Oldham, while on furlough in California, opens with news about her son Paul (portrayed in the album photograph) before moving on to comments on the development of the Methodist Church in Chile:

  • 5 Marian Milks Reeder letter to William F. Oldham, Nov. 7th 1913, Missionary Files (Microfilm Edition (...)

22I love Chile. It will soon be 22 years since I went out and we are so weak there still. A gospel corps of scarcely a dozen North American missionaries in the Republic and aside from Valparaiso church nothing worthy the name of Church edifice on all the West Coast. I see pictures of our churches in Puerto Rico and the Philippines, parallel work. It is shocking to be jealous and covetous. Some of the men who have done the best service in Porto Rico were trained in Chile… We lost them I know why. Lack of equipment and sympathetic backing…5

23Thus, feelings of belonging to family, church and field lead to strategic considerations about the missionary “corps” of evangelizers, as well as the necessity to build infrastructures to support the church’s impact. That Marian Reeder should mention pictures of Puerto Rico and the Philippines suggests the various readings these photographs could elicit according to the context where the missionaries saw them. Presumably produced as publicity shots promoting the success of the church in far-away islands, these pictures are caught in a web of sentiments which links a missionary family, the nation where it found a second home, and Marian Reeder’s frustration at seeing the preference given by the Board to other mission fields. Far from being unequivocal carriers of institutional communication, photographs are invested with strong feelings of belonging and commitment.

  • 6 An article found in the Chilean Methodist weekly El Cristiano (Espinoza, A., 1911: 146) mentions th (...)

24Marian Reeder was not only concerned with infrastructures. She also wrote that “evangelizing the world is a man’s job,” worrying about male churchgoers’ indifference to the topic, and contributing to the discourse about “muscular Christianity” which had emerged in England and America in the second half of the 19th century, and had become integral part of the Methodist missions centennial celebrations in 1919 (Putney, 2001: 197-9). This is one of the ways to read the very first photograph of the entire South American series, which shows Bishop Frank Bristol returning from a trip to the “Mission farthest South,” which was precisely John Reeder´s Punta Arenas charge.6

25This picture is significant for various reasons. The caption´s reference to his visits to the sick can be read as a renewed emphasisplacedon the social role of the church, as mentioned earlier. More importantly however, this photograph, placed alongside the South American map and a picture of this “last hope region,”seems a symbolic reminder of the Church´s origins.Originally, American Methodism was a frontier faith, and its whole organization was based on the fact that preachers were not to be attached to specific congregations. They were assigned a field which included various local churches or villages, called a “circuit”. Their “charge” was to visit these various congregations as often as possible, and to gain new converts (Feinman, P., 2006). Furthermore, the church´s itinerant system was based on the idea that no preacher should stay in the same circuit for long, and should be moved from charge to charge according to the needs of the church.

26Bristol was not a simple minister or preacher: he was no less than the second resident Bishop for Latin America, between 1908 and 1912. He lived in Buenos Aires, and his jurisdiction included the whole subcontinent (« Frank Bristol », 1908; « Day´s News », 1926). This gigantic territory made the South American bishop an untiring traveler, as his predecessor Thomas Neely had explained:

The South American field is so vast that no matter where the Bishop may be, he is thousands of miles from other places in his jurisdiction, with impassable mountains and broad oceans between, so that to get around the continent it is easier to go to New York and take steamers from that port than to go by any other route(cited in Copplestone, J., op. cit.: 2109).

27In the missionary field, the minister was reliving the wandering life of the early 19th-century frontier pioneer, on an even larger scale. As another Methodist writer suggested at the time, “the glory and the heroism of Christianity lie in its missionary life” (Lambuth, W., 1915: 155). By the end of the 1920s, another theoretician of the Churchpublished a book called The Romance of American Methodism,in which he concurred that the name “circuit rider” was “perhaps the most heroic and romantic term in Methodism.” He went on:

“To cover those large circuits Methodism made use of the horse. In fact the horse was an indispensable part of the Methodist machinery of evangelization. (He) played a vital part in saving souls in early America”(Neff, P., 1931: 60).

28The Bishop´s horse and carriage bring back the viewer to the origins of the movement, the manly romance of the late 18th-century circuit rider, and ultimately to William Taylor´s pioneering vision of “heroic individualism,” at a time when it was gradually being replaced by early 20th-century forms of “bureaucratic paternalism” (Hempton, D., 2005: 175). Although the creation of new congregations in South Americatended to follow railroad networks, the continent was still largely defined by the indomitable Andes, and the untamed wilderness of jungles, pampa and deserts. While the new discipline of “missiology” was determined to reorganize the evangelization of the world based on surveys and statistics, reports, comprehensive evaluations and rational bureaucracy, the portraits of Frank Bristol and John Reeder actually suggest that the photo albums of the Methodist Board of Foreign Missions were not only cold records of missionary science, but also romantic and personal images of a handful of migrants with a mission.

29These photographs, although they are an integral partof an institutional archive created at the age of centralization and organization, also suggest that the visual construction of the missionary heritage was in part legendary narrative, and in part family album.Thistension confirms Elizabeth Edwards and Christopher Morton’s insight that “the cultural performance of photographs both complicate and destabilize [the] homogenizing models of the archive” (Edwards & Morton, 2009: 11).Whether the sentimental and romantic undercurrent in the Methodist collection was deliberate, or simply a side effect of the mnemonic labor of amateur photography as marketed by Kodak around the same time (West, 2000: 17) is a question which requires further exploration. The opening pictures of the South Americancollection, however, reveal that the “disciplinary effects” of institutional photographic archives as part of bureaucratic systems of classification and retrieval (Tagg, 2012: 29-30) are only part of the story, and that the visual culture of mission encompassed competing practices and narratives.

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Notes

1 The Boards of Foreign and Home Missions created 256 albums in all, which contain about 250,000 pictures taken on all continents (see Paterson, L.D., 2011: 184 and Morris, D., 2010: 41).

2 As a matter of fact, the collection of material and visual artefacts for this Methodist version of the world fair might have given the impulse for the systematic organization of the photographic file.

3 On Reinsch´s influence, see Brian C. Schmidt, 2005. To see the original quote in context, see Paul S. Reinsch, 1900. Needless to say, the religious justification of commercial expansion was already characteristic of British imperialism in the mid-19th century, as shown by Brian Stanley, 1983.

4 This was all the more relevant on a continent which was increasingly obsessed with la cuestión social.

5 Marian Milks Reeder letter to William F. Oldham, Nov. 7th 1913, Missionary Files (Microfilm Edition), United Methodist Church Archives - GCAH, Madison, New Jersey.

6 An article found in the Chilean Methodist weekly El Cristiano (Espinoza, A., 1911: 146) mentions the “exceptional visit” of the Bishop in the southern town. It could have been the occasion for this picture.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1 : Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Mission Photograph Album - South America #1 page 1
Crédits Source: UMC Digital Galleries, http://catalog.gcah.org/​omeka/​items/​show/​14843. Accessed June 22, 2015.
URL http://ideas.revues.org/docannexe/image/1066/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 524k
Titre Figure 2 : Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Mission Photograph Album - South America #1 page 2
Crédits Source: UMC Digital Galleries, ttp://catalog.gcah.org/omeka/items/show/14844. Accessed June 22, 2015.
URL http://ideas.revues.org/docannexe/image/1066/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 480k
Titre Figure 3: Listing of photographs found in “Mission Photograph Album - South America #8. Dated 1929-1932
Crédits Source: United Methodist Church Archives - GCAH, Madison, New Jersey
URL http://ideas.revues.org/docannexe/image/1066/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 181k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Didier Aubert, « Surveys and romance: Methodist missionaries´ photographs of the South American “field” in the early 20th century », IdeAs [En ligne], 6 | Automne/Hiver 2015, mis en ligne le 18 décembre 2015, consulté le 26 mai 2017. URL : http://ideas.revues.org/1066 ; DOI : 10.4000/ideas.1066

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Auteur

Didier Aubert

Didier Aubert est Maître de conférences en civilisation nord-américaine à l’Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. Ses recherches portent principalement sur les pratiques de la photographie documentaire et journalistique aux Etats-Unis, ainsi que sur la circulation des images entre Amérique du Nord et Amérique Latine. Co-auteur et membre du comité de rédaction de L’Amérique des Images, dirigé par François Brunet (2013), il participe actuellement à l’élaboration d’un dictionnaire d’histoire culturelle transatlantique (projet ANR). Il est membre de l’UMR Thalim et du Labex TransferS, membre associé du groupe Himan, et chercheur associé du Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion (Université de Yale).

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Licence Creative Commons
IdeAs – Idées d’Amériques est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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