Tuesday, December 15, 2020

This Andaman Islander was photographed by Royal Navy officer and explorer Maurice V. Portman in the late 1880s.  Portman did some genuine anthropological work, but sullied his reputation by staging some of his subjects in anachronistic tableaux ranging from Medieval reenactments to copies of sexually suggestive scenes from Classical antiquity.  Plus there were photos where the main focus was on male genitalia.  And before anybody asks, no, I don't have any of those.



  1. I majored in cultural anthropology. These pictures are interesting, but I wonder at the motivation of those who took them. I don't think they were meant to be overtly sexual, but thete was an underlying desire (maybe) to say "See? Men of color do not all have big male organs." I am also surprised to see rt Moroccan. I think he's a Berber. Not 100% sure. But he IS Muslim. He's circumcised. And there had to be a degree of coercion, because no practicing Muslim would consent to be so photographed. His facial expression is not happy.

    1. Portman is believed by many modern experts to have exploited his models both artistically and sexually, and I don't have any information of that sort on the other work in this series. I will say that any time this sort of thing was done under the aegis of a colonial government, fully free consent can't be assumed. I have mixed feelings about publishing them, but they are literally part of the historical record of how we view masculinity, so here they are. And to be fair, I have to say that I have some photos of this type where the subjects appear to be relaxed and enjoying themselves. That does not, however, mean that they couldn't have been being exploited in some way.

  2. Of course, you make some excellent points. And please don't think I was considering you exploitive. Somewhere, I saw you express reluctance to use this type of photo, and I was pleased and impressed.