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date: 23 September 2017

Collecting Picture Postcards of South America

Summary and Keywords

In their so-called “Golden Age,” from the late 1890s to the 1920s, picture postcards probably were the most prominent visual mass medium, worldwide, including South America. Many people collected postcards, which were quite affordable, and pen pals exchanged postcards from all over the world; dates were arranged via postcards, just as happens today via phone, email, text, or instant messaging.

Although most South American postcards were published and sold in urban areas, the broad availability combined with their postal function brought postcards a vast social and geographical diffusion. To use a common term, they are “travelling objects.” Postcards of South America could cross the globe many times before becoming part of a private album or an archival collection. For instance, the German entrepreneur and photographer Guillermo Grüter (1871–1947), who had come to Paraguay in 1893, published some of the most popular Paraguayan postcards. The images stemmed from photographs he took there. In his early years in Paraguay, before he imported printing machines and produced postcards on his own, Grüter sent some of his photographs to a manufacturer in Europe who produced postcards. These were shipped back to Grüter in Asunción, where he sold some of them to European immigrants and travelers, who sent them back home to relatives and friends across the Atlantic. Similar stories can be told about postcards published by the German Eduardo Pollack from Lima, Peru, by Austrian Roberto Rosauer from Buenos Aires, Argentina, or by one of the many German publishers in Valparaíso, Valdivia, and other Chilean towns. Picture postcards are interesting objects of study for investigations of global cultural history in transatlantic and other transnational entanglements.

Keywords: postcards, picture postcards, visual media, photography, visual culture, visual history, representation of South America, postal history, material culture, transnational history

Picture postcards have gained some attention recently in visual and cultural studies.1 In the Latin American context, the works of Mariana Giordano or Carlos Masotta should be mentioned.2 Research focuses on representations of indigenous peoples and geographically on Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay. By and large, postcards of South America have not been systematically analyzed, nor have they been integrated into a broader context, although picture postcards are important visual media in more than one aspect. In their so-called “Golden Age,” from the late 1890s to the 1920s, picture postcards probably were the most prominent visual mass media. Many people collected postcards, which were quite affordable, and pen pals exchanged postcards from all over the world. Short messages were sent and dates were arranged via postcards, just as we do today via phone, email, text, or instant messaging. This is illustrated by a picture postcard in the collection of the Altonaer Museum in Hamburg: “Did you get angry yesterday? [literally: Did you turn black yesterday?] Kind regards, Walther” reads the message on a postcard sent from Talca, Chile, to Curt Bassen in Santiago, on September 1, 1917, by a German friend, relative, or business partner (figure 1). Unfortunately, it is not recorded what Walther alluded to, whether it was something private, a matter of business, or perhaps a sports result that might have upset Bassen. The addressee of the postcard, which was published by local German immigrant Jerman [Herman] Schwartz, was an employee at Daube y Cía, a chemical-pharmaceutical trading house. In the archive of the Altonaer Museum, there are about thirty South American postcards directed to Bassen, mostly from Chile and Argentina.3 Apparently, he had a network of correspondents that he maintained when he got back to Groß Flottbek near Hamburg, in the 1920s.

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 1. “Plaza de Armas—Talca.” Publisher: Jerman Schwartz, Talca, sent in 1917.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, signature 2004/5/107.

Although most South American postcards were published and sold in urban areas, the broad availability combined with their postal function gave postcards a vast social and geographical diffusion. To use a common term, they are “travelling objects.” Postcards of South America could cross the globe many times before finding their ways into a private album or an archival collection. For instance, the German entrepreneur and photographer Guillermo Grüter (1871–1947), who had come to Paraguay in 1893, published some of the most popular Paraguayan postcards. The images stemmed from photographs he took there. In his early years in Paraguay, before he imported printing machines and produced postcards on his own, Grüter sent some of his photographs to a manufacturer in Europe who produced postcards. These were shipped back to Grüter in Asunción, where he sold some of them to European immigrants and travelers, who sent them back home to relatives and friends across the Atlantic. Similar stories can be told about postcards published by the German Eduardo Pollack from Lima, Peru, and by Austrian Roberto Rosauer from Buenos Aires, Argentina, or by one of the many German publishers in Valparaíso, Valdivia, and other Chilean towns. It is often impossible to find out (1) who took the photograph that postcards were based on, (2) who published it, and/or (3) who sold it. In the case of the postcard of Pernambuco (figure 2), published in Hamburg, Germany, by Albert Aust, we know that Marc Ferrez (1843–1923) took the photograph in 1875, during the geological expedition of the Imperial Geological Commission led by Charles F. Hartt (1840–1878). But we do not know how the postcard got back to Brazil, from where it was sent to Altona, near Hamburg, in 1899.

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 2. “Pernambuco.” Photographer: Marc Ferrez (1875); publisher: Albert Aust, Hamburg, sent in 1899.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, signature 1965/590/90.

Early 20th century picture postcards of South America are interesting objects of study for investigations of global cultural history, including transatlantic and other transnational entanglements. This article aims to give some conceptual ideas of how these postcards might be integrated into different studies and research projects. The images displayed are taken into account, as well as the different perspectives from which contemporaries might have observed the images. The objects themselves are of interest, as are the broader meanings they could develop in specific collections or in particular imaginational contexts.

A brief history of picture postcards is in order, before turning to the actors involved in the production, distribution, and perception of this visual media. An analysis of postcard images and of those who gazed on them is central to the article, and offers starting points for future research.

This article focuses specifically on South American postcards and draws heavily on postcards located in German archives or online. Limiting the scope to South America provides readers with a manageable amount of material, and materials contained in German archives are similar to those contained elsewhere. That is to say, postcards originally printed in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, or Peru, and now housed in Europe—like their counterparts from Mexico, Cuba, and Panama, or postcards now held in American collections—tend to show similar scenes of buildings, railways, ruins, indigenous peoples, and nature. Moreover, publishers from Mexico, Cuba, or Panama were not that more important than their colleagues from Buenos Aires, for instance. And finally, the differentiation between South and Central America is common today as it has been in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

A Very, Very Short History of Picture Postcards (Not Only) of South America

Officially, the first postcard was sent in Austria in 18694 (though earlier uses of postal cards occurred in the 1860s, in the United States). These early correspondence cards were not illustrated except for small emblems. Soon their use was spread to the rest of Europe and the United States, and by the 1890s, postcards were common in Latin America and other parts of the world, too. By this time also, the first picture postcards, in black and white, appeared. They were lithographically illustrated on the back—contrary to the popular opinion, the front of a postcard, as in a letter, is actually the side with the address. But I will use common language here in order not to confuse the reader. Until in the first decade of the 20th century, the divided back (originally being the front), with one section reserved for the message, the other for the address prevailed,5 the picture and the message competed for the space on the front (originally being the back), resulting in the well-known phenomenon of greetings and other short messages written in the sky, for instance, or other brighter parts.6

Around 1895, the method of chromolithography enabled the production of colored cards. As with the black and white lithographic cards, the illustrations printed on these early postcards often were based on photographs. The (still relatively) new media of photography and postcard were amalgamated even before the first photo postcards in black and white (collotype and bromide) appeared in the early 20th century. The attraction of publishing photographs in the form of postcards and the importance of postcards for the distribution of photographic images resulted from two factors: first, the postcard made possible the large dissemination of images by sending them by mail; second, serial production made postcards the cheapest way to print photographs. Since the 1920s, picture and photo postcards were produced by the technique of offset printing.

All this technical progress soon reached Latin America. In the urban centers of Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Brazil, photographers and other specialists, often European immigrants, often from Germany, produced their own postcards and/or distributed postcards produced in the United States or in Europe (again, especially in Germany). In Buenos Aires, for instance, the Austrian Roberto Rosauer, the German Jacobo Peuser, the Swiss Gastón A. Bourquin, or the Italian Zaverio Fumagalli were among the principal publishers. They produced more than six thousand different postcard views before the 1920s, according to Graciela Silvestri, a Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) researcher.7

Photographers, Publishers, and Consumers

Before turning to the images of South America, disseminated in the form of postcards in the Americas and beyond, the various actors involved in this process, the photographers, publishers, and consumers, shall be presented. Latin American photographers often were European immigrants who established their businesses principally in the major cities—Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Valparaíso, or Rio de Janeiro, for instance.8 Other authors of images were European scientists, adventurers, and travelers. Among these, one of the best known is photographer Guido Boggiani (1861–1902), an Italian ethnologist, artist, and adventurer, who had come to South America in 1887 and established himself in Paraguay. Boggiani was fascinated with the indigenous people of the Chaco (a region at the borders of Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia) (figure 3) In 1902, he died—allegedly he had been decapitated by Indians—during a journey through the Chaco.9 A series of 114 photographs Boggiani had taken of “tipos indígenas de Sudamérica central,” mostly residents of the Chaco, was published in 1904 as postcards by the German anthropologist Robert Lehmann-Nitsche (1872–1938), in cooperation with Roberto Rosauer from Buenos Aires.10 The collection (printed in Germany) was praised contemporarily by anthropologists and ethnologists. In his review in the “American Anthropologist,” Alexander Francis Chamberlain (1865–1914) stated: “Dr. Lehmann-Nitsche has both performed a pious deed and benefit [to] anthropology by editing this collection.”11 Consequently, the collection can be found in various European institutions, including the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, or thanks to the legacy of the Italian doctor, Stefano Cavazzuttis, at the Museo Ravennate di Scienze Naturali “Alfredo Brandolini” in Ravenna, as well as in the Tozzer Library at Harvard University and in the Dibam Biblioteca Nacional de Chile.12 The postcards with images from this collection obviously were popular, considering that quite a few of them were reprinted by Rosauer and other publishers.

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 3. Picture postcard, publisher unknown, after 1906, reprint of “India Chamacoco, ‘Tásiga,’ Puerto 14 de Mayo,” No. 34, from the Boggiani Collection. Photographer: Guido Boggiani, ed. by Robert Lehmann-Nitsche; publisher: Roberto Rosauer, Buenos Aires, 1904.

Courtesy of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz—Ethnologisches Museum, signature VIII E Nls 75. For the original postcard from the Boggiani collection see, for example, Barbara Potthast and Kathrin Reinert, “Der Nachlass Robert Lehmann-Nitsche: Erschließung und Bearbeitung eines medial breit gefächerten Bestands,” zeitenblicke 7, no. 2, October 01, 2008. A colored reprint, published after 1906 again by Rosauer, can be found in Cavazzutti’s legacy, digital copy on the website of the Società di Ricerca e Studio della Romagna Mineraria.

Because many, if not most, South American photographic images of the 19th and early 20th centuries were authored by Europeans, some historians regard these representations as “mirada desde afuera (view from outside).”13 Other famous photographers whose pictures were published as postcards include Odber Heffer Bissett (1860–1945), born in Canada, who came to Chile in 1886 to work for Félix Leblanc, the owner of the prestigious photographic studio “Garreaud,” which operated subsidiaries in Santiago, Valparaiso, Copiapó, Talca, La Serena, and Concepción;14 Harry Grant Olds (1869–1943), born in Sandusky, Ohio, who first came to Valparaiso in 1899 (where he worked for the studio of Odber Heffer Bissett), then established himself in Buenos Aires a year later; his photographs were published in magazines such as “La Ilustración Sudamericana” and in the form of postcards by various publishers such as Mitchell’s;15 or Peruvian photographer Martín Chambi (1891–1973). Chambi is perhaps the only indigenous person whose photographs were spread in the form of postcards. Born in 1891 in Coaza, Puno, Chambi first came into contact with photography in the gold mines of Santo Domingo, run by the U.S.-American Inca Mining Company. In 1908, he moved to Arequipa where he apprenticed in the studio of Max T. Vargas, a pioneer of photography in Southern Peru.16 After opening a studio of his own in Sicuani, in 1917, Chambi established himself in Cuzco in 1920, where he developed his own photographic style. Taking pictures of indigenous people, their culture, traditions, costumes, rituals, and crafts, as well as their ruins and the Andean landscape (often in combination with visualizations of modernity, as the flight of Velasco Astete over Cuzco), Chambi essentially contributed to the indigenist Cuzco school.17

Many photographers, like the Peruvians Vargas and Chambi, published postcards—mostly based on their own photographs. This brings me to the second group of actors, the publishers. Like the photographers, many publishers were European immigrants or sons of immigrants (there were hardly any female publishers), often from Germany or German-speaking countries. In Argentina, there were also many publishers from Italy.

While in most Latin American countries, publishers operated in the bigger cities, national and provincial capitals, postcard production in Chile was highly regionalized.18 Even in Punta Arenas, various publishers produced postcards (figure 4), among them the Austrian immigrant and hotelier Roberto Mulach (1883–1930) and Henry Poirier (1871–1915). Poirier, originally Herman Birnbaum, was born into a Jewish family from Bucharest. He emigrated in the late 1880s, and around 1890, after two years in Marseille, he arrived in Punta Arenas and established a successful fur and hide trade. In his “Peletería Magallanes,” the passionate photographer also sold postcards and curios.19 With the exception of the major publishers like Rosauer, preponderantly, publishers typically produced small batch series, as they most probably lacked machinery for large-scale production.

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 4. “Recuerdo del Estrecho de Magallanes.” Photographer (most probably) and publisher: Henry Poirier, Peletería Magallanes, Punta Arenas, c. 1900.

Courtesy of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz—Ethnologisches Museum, signature VIII E Nls 202.

As with the producers of photographs and postcards, consumers of postcards also belonged to the urban sphere. This third group of actors is the hardest one to grasp. In South America, postcard images were seen predominantly by an urban public, mostly of the higher and middle classes. Although postcards were more or less affordable—as were cartes de visite and cabinet cards, other visual media popular earlier in the 19th century20—they could be found almost exclusively in the shops of publishers and photographers or in libraries, tobacco, and stationary shops in the urban centers.

Moreover, South American postcards were bought by Europeans and North Americans.21 Immigrants sent them home to friends and relatives. Travelers who stayed in South America for commercial or scientific reasons bought postcards as souvenirs or with scientific interest for themselves. The postcard collection of anthropologist Robert Lehmann-Nitsche, director of the anthropologist section of the Museo de la Plata from 1897 to 1930, is well known. Because of his large anthropological, ethnological, and folkloristic collection, consisting not only of postcards and photographs but also of other everyday testimonials, Lehmann-Nitsche is called the “archivist of everyday life” on the homepage of the Ibero-American Institute in Berlin, which hosts his legacy.22 Another rich collection of postcards has been left to the Ibero-American Institute in Berlin by the “father of Andean archaeology,” Max Uhle (1856–1944), who spent almost four decades of his life in South America.

The first decades of the 20th century saw a full-fledged boom in collecting postcards.23 Thousands and thousands of them were sent within Latin America (figure 5). As Graciela Silvestri has shown, in Argentina, for instance, “there were lists and specialized magazines to foster the exchange.”24 But the networks of collectors also reached to Europe, as in the case of Curt Bassen. Another example is the Swiss collector Adolf Feller, whose collection was published online by the visual archive of the ETH Zurich. Feller received postcards from friends, partners, and pen pals from all over the world, including South America.25 Today, “golden age” postcards remain popular collectors’ items, traded, for instance, in online shops.26

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 5. “Tipos araucanos.” Publisher: E. Valck, Valdivia, sent in 1914.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, signature 1966/658,188. “Dear Männi, here’s a postcard for your album. Hoping that you’ve been good, best wishes, your uncle Hermann” reads the text on this card sent to Hermann Paul in Santiago, Chile, by his uncle, also named Hermann. The two Hermanns probably were German immigrants or stemmed from German immigrants.

Ambivalent Images

Postcards of South America spread and popularized photographs and prints showing most different images. The ambivalence of the overall image of South America becomes obvious from the images. On the one hand there are trains and railway stations, palaces of government, national and regional parliaments, banks and other aspects of urbanity, ports, the zoo of Buenos Aires, or modern production sites. The image of the central post office in Santiago de Chile is consistent for a postcard, too (figure 6). On the other hand, totally different photographs and postcards displayed aspects of indigenous life and culture and, especially in Peru, ruins (figure 7). At first glance, it seems that in total the visual sources reproduced a well-known dichotomy of tradition and modernity, of barbarism and civilization.27 Nevertheless, an in-depth analysis of the ambivalent images shows that they were not dichotomous but that there was a space in-between in which hybrid senses were built. Some images shimmered in different senses.

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 6. “Santiago, Correo Central.” Publisher: Adolfo Conrads, Santiago, before 1915.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, signature 2004/5/117.

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 7. “Cuzco—Perú. Trono del Inca en las Ruinas de Sacsayhuaman.” Publisher: H. G. Rosas, Cuzco, c. 1910.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, signature 2008/14,82.

Images of “modernity” proudly emphasized that the economy and infrastructure of the South American countries were well developed and enabled the exploitation of natural resources, engagement in agricultural industry or trade without encountering major problems. For example, photographs-turned-postcard of railways—the symbol of progress—displayed that even the Andes had a developed infrastructure (figure 8). And pictures of the modern metropolises, with their palaces of government, parliaments, national banks, hotels, their possibilities for leisure activities, romantic parks, sports facilities, botanical and zoological gardens, showed that life could be quite comfortable (figure 9). Thus, emigrants and travellers who sent such postcards home demonstrated to their relatives, friends, or business partners that South America’s bigger cities, especially Buenos Aires—were indeed not that different from European metropolises. The famous German author, Karl May (who himself never visited South America, but whose fictitious travel accounts were taken as authentic by his turn-of-the-century readers), stated, about the Uruguayan capital Montevideo: “One could as well be in Bordeaux or Trieste.”28

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 8. “Mendoza. Tunél F.C. Transandino.” Publisher: Adolfo Kapelusz, Buenos Aires, Argentina, after 1906.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, signature 1966/658,68.

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 9. “Club de Regatas ‘La Marina.’ Buenos Aires, Rep. Argentina.” Photographer: Eugenio Avanzi, publisher: Roberto Rosauer, Buenos Aires, Argentina, before 1906, sent in 1911.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, siganture 2004/5/182.

On the other hand, pictures of rough landscapes, untouched nature, and traditional, “savage” indigenous people confirmed an age-old image of Latin America as a backward periphery with a racially inferior native population that, naturally, had been conquered by the Europeans and whose exploitation and displacement was legitimate.

Contemporarily credited with objectivity, authenticity, and facticity, photographs-turned-postcards not only “proved” the images to be true—which was especially necessary because of the already mentioned ambivalence of the overall image—but also facilitated generating and popularizing knowledge: photographs and other visual media are most immediate.29 Thus, they also helped to foster stereotypes and to project fantasies onto South America, as visual media had done since the first cultural contacts between Europeans and indigenous Americans in the course of the European expansion. European knowledge of Latin America always has been visually transmitted, as demonstrated by the well known prints of the de Brys, illustrating Hans Staden’s account of Brazil.30

Photographs and photo postcards thus played a crucial role in the process of imagining South American reality. This was true not only for the image transmitted to Europe or to North America, but also in South America as well, where picture postcards spread perceptions of the South American nations and nationality, of belonging and heritage. Indeed, what would be more apt for the construction of an imagined community than images?31 What happened to the cross reference to Paraguayan National Identity? The editor asked me to include cross references.

Different Gazes

To look beyond the level of the images, the leading question that guides this project is: What ideas of South America were transmitted to the people in Germany by photographs and postcards? And what kind of ideas and desires were projected onto the strange continent and its inhabitants?32 The concept of the gaze, which means the different perspectives of the observers, is informed by Louise Pratt’s idea of the colonial gaze and by John Urry’s concept of the tourist gaze. The latter determines and regulates the relation of the tourist to his environment by organizing and canonizing which impressions are to be received.33 Building on Pratt, the gaze can be seen as form of cultural contact and the visually transmitted knowledge as transferts culturels. The images come from a social and discursive space that Pratt calls contact zone. Even more, the images are part of this space and even construct it. “How has travel and exploration writing produced ‘the rest of the world’ for European readerships . . . ?”34 Analogue to Pratt’s question, one could investigate the role of photographic images and postcards.

In the period under investigation, a photograph implicated (and sometimes still implicates even today) objectivity, reality, facticity, and authenticity. What could be seen in the picture was considered to be true, as if the situation had been exactly like this in reality—as if time and space had been frozen in the photograph. This applies even more in the case of the picture postcards, as the sender has vouched for the “truth” of the view.35 Thus, to quote Jens Jäger, an expert in visual history, picture postcards combined “what was thought of as significant and representative. This reflects local as well as general discourses, for instance on urbanity, representations of cities and specific places, ‘national’ characteristics, the importance of monuments and architecture or landscapes that thus were marked as typical or characteristic.”36

Of course, various possibilities for manipulation (a photograph can be put together, revised, retouched, and so on) qualify the truth of photographic images. But, the readings of any image as well as its interpretations are as diverse as the number of observers. There is never a single version, nor a correct interpretation of an image. To borrow from Roland Barthes, photographs (the basis of most postcards) are not transparent documents in a universal language. According to Barthes, they are signs, semiotic phenomena, whose magic results from the supposed transparency that provides different interpretations with authority in equal measure.37

With respect to the analytic category of the gaze, it is supposed that visual codes that “work” means that they produce similar effects upon people with a shared cultural background, even if the conditions under which the various observers looked upon the images may have differed (depending on their knowledge, their opinions, and their moods). Of course, it is impossible to determine exactly what effect an image had upon the observer, simply because there are no sources in which individuals reveal such. But it can be demonstrated that the images were part of scientific discourses and of popular, literary discourses. Thus, to investigate on the dimension of the gaze, those discourses that supposedly influenced the perception of the images from South America have to be included. Sometimes these influencing factors are analogous to the popular knowledge of other exotic world regions. Therefore, some aspects require the expansion of spatial and temporal limits. In some cases it is necessary to draw comparisons with Africa or the Orient, in other cases continuities or disruptions of the images need to be accentuated.

Assuming that, despite the open character of images, there are common points in the individual perception and the effects images have on individuals analytically, the ambivalent pictures of postcards of South America can be structured along the different perspectives of the observers. First, there is a scientific perspective in which postcards from South America, for instance those from the Boggiani collection, were part of scientific discourses on “race” and the racial system. Second, like every other image, too, picture postcards had (and have) emotional effects and can be regarded from a corresponding perspective. Observed with this longing gaze, postcards of South America could stir erotic desires and fantasies, for instance. Third, there is a historic, or historicizing, perspective in which the various images were perceived as representing the history, present, or future of South America. The different perspectives, or gazes, could coincide, interfere, and complement, or they could be two sides of the same coin.

The Scientific Gaze

Many postcards are of scientific origin and show anthropologic and anthropometric, ethnologic and ethnographic, or archaeological images. The photographs that were the basis of these postcards emanate from the epistemic system38 that scientists were part of. Thus, the postcards (be they anthropologic or ethnologic) served to increase the scientific knowledge of South America and its people. Simultaneously, they served the construction of identity and alterity, as shown by the historical and sociological literature on this process of “othering.”39

In contrast to anthropologists, who had to photograph their research objects naked, if possible, ethnologist photography had to represent the authentic atmosphere, typical activities, clothes, jewelry, body decoration such as tattoos, and so on. The representation of South American natives culminated in studio photographs of allegedly true, savage, barely dressed, exotic indigenous men and women that, from today’s point of view, have to be called ridiculous. The ambivalent and at times conflicting dimensions of representations of “the indigenous,” leap out to the observer of figure 10. It shows a “typical” indígena from Beni, a Bolivian lowland department, before scenery meant to represent the jungle, her supposed natural habitat. The picture blends scientific (the inscription suggests an ethnological aim that was confirmed with the inclusion of the postcard in the collection of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin), artistic (the whole image seems costumbrista), and exotic-erotic (bare breasts, feather headdress, and skirt) traits.

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Figure 10. “India Beniana. (Bolivia).” Publisher: Arnó Hnos, La Paz, c. 1910(?).

Courtesy of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz—Ethnologisches Museum, signature VIII E Nls 207.

The Longing Gaze

The postcard of the “India Beniana” from Bolivia obviously does not belong exclusively to the realm of anthropologic and ethnologic research. It shows something “more.” Many postcards display naked or half-naked indigenous subjects consistent with the requirements of scientific photography. But these pictures, in particular, are highly ambivalent. One can compare their effect to the function of a flip switch: They had a scientific function, but they also stirred non-scientific emotions. For early 20th century observers, nakedness could have erotic effects and it could provoke sexual fantasies. Some postcards showing South American indigenous people might even be considered pornographic.

The relationship and connection between sex, gender, erotic fantasies, sexual desire, and colonialism in general, and in colonial postcards in particular, is quite well investigated. Malek Alloula’s work on the “Colonial Harem” and other studies on colonial postcards displaying nude or half-nude Africans, for instance, also state that these images produced erotic effects and that many of these were designed for this purpose.40

Contemporarily, indigenous people were constructed as “natural” beings—in contrast to cultivated whites. Anthropologists, ethnologists, and other scientists ascribed indigenous South Americans, as well as Africans and other native people, with an exuberant libido, incontinence, and sexual liberality. In his postcolonial studies on orientalism (that despite all criticism still provide some valuable insights), Edward Said41 showed how fin-de-siècle Europeans, fed up with civilization, and longing for a natural and simple life, imagined a mysterious orient with marked sexual elements, thinking for instance of the harem world behind the gaze and seductive danseuses. The spatial distance and the supposed cultural and racial distance allowed the projection of desires and fantasies onto the “other” in the orient—as well as in South America. The continent seemed to be a space of unlimited sexual opportunities. Since the times of the conquest of the Americas which was accompanied by the mass rape of its indigenous population, the female-connoted South America was to be conquered by European men. Obviously, this European idea of an easy South American sexuality, which dates back to the 16th century, is still vital even today. In the popular imagination, South American men and women are perceived as vivacious, passionate, and incontinent individuals.

Of course, in the period under investigation, this sexist and racist othering most affected Africans, who were thought to be the lowest level of races. Another reason is the political issue of official and personal relations including—often forced—sexual contacts between white European colonizers and African men and women, in the realm of the colonial order.42

The aspect of colonialism also influenced the European imagination of South America in the 19th and early 20th centuries—ignoring the fact that most of the South American territory since the 1810s to 1820s consisted of independent states (except for Dutch, English and French Guyana).43 For instance, German emigrants—often called “colonists”—who had been coming to South America since the 19th century especially to Brazil and Chile, feature in almost every contemporary German travel account (and these were numerous!). These and other supposedly true and autobiographical accounts of German emigrants praised the hard and honest work of these “Auslandsdeutsche” (Germans abroad), who benefited not only the German community, but also the South American societies.

The purpose and effect of such tales, which prospered before German colonialism officially began, have been coined “colonial fantasies” by Susanne Zantop.44 Zantop stressed that there was a sharp, sexualized connotation in many of the texts. Although sometimes “to plow” means just to plow and is not necessarily a metaphor for sexual penetration, the environment in which South Americans lived was regarded with a longing gaze that played into the imagination of “sexotic” South America.45 Similar to the exotic nature of the South Seas, the place for romantic and erotic fantasies the natural habitat of at least some of South America’s indigenous people, the sultry jungle often is described as opulent, fertile, hot, and humid, implicating or alluding to the sexual easiness of its indigenous inhabitants. But the jungle also was portrayed as a wilderness waiting to be tamed, to be conquered, colonized, and extracted (figure 11).

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Figure 11. “Porto Alegre.” Publisher: Jorge Ellert, Porto Alegre, sent in 1913.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, signature 1965/356–103.

The Historicizing Gaze

The images that display a process of development could be looked at in yet another perspective. Observed with a historicizing gaze, these pictures as well as urban views, factories, or railways showed the present and future of South America. Images of indigenous people and ancient ruins, romantic or rough undeveloped landscapes, as well as costumbrista images of groups such as gauchos, were perceived as the continent’s past.

Being part of the elites, postcard publishers who produced these images responded to the modernizing spirit of their class. As mentioned, a lot of postcards displayed sites of modern statehood, such as palaces of government, parliaments, or national banks, as well as trains and railway stations—the symbols of progress—modern production sites and other aspects of modernity.46 The postcard published by J. Cunill from Buenos Aires emphasized the aspect of modernity and modernization in the form of the electrified metropolis (figure 12).

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 12. “Plaza de Congreso, Buenos Aires.” Publisher: J. Cunill, Buenos Aires, Argentina, sent in 1926.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, signature 1969/454,83.

On the other hand, photographers and postcard publishers portrayed the indigenous population as belonging to the continent’s past, with a veneer of history. In contrast to postcolonial approaches to pictures of indigenous people, which are determined by the search for dignity and agency, contemporary images portrayed the indigenous population as backward, scruffy, idle,47 barbarian, and sometimes dangerous and belligerent. Bearing in mind the death of Boggiani, who had been killed by indigenous residents of the Chaco, the picture of the “tribu en armas,” an armed tribe, from the Argentine Chaco (figure 13) might have been more menacing to contemporaries than it is to observers today—especially because of the many children. Historian Mariana Giordano states that the children and adolescents in the photograph, taken by Theo Fumière around the turn of the century, were made to pose with spears, bows, and arrows.48 The photograph soon circulated in the form of a postcard and became quite a popular image (which means it sold well). The version shown here was published before 1906, by Rosauer; around 1915, another colored version was published by Zaverio Fumagalli.

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 13. “Tribu en Armas. Indios del Chaco Austral, Rep. Argentina.” Photographer: Theo Fumière (c. 1900); publisher: Roberto Rosauer, Buenos Aires, before 1906.

Courtesy of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz—Ethnologisches Museum, signature VIII E Nls 232.

That indigenous people were savage and dangerous can be seen in the picture postcard of cannibals from the Peruvian jungle (figure 14), as well. The postcard, published by German Eduardo Pollack from Lima and based on a photograph by German explorer Charles Kröhle, displays a group of indigenous people from the Peruvian Amazon that consists of nine persons, among them five children, who—at least to me—seem rather shy before the camera. Perhaps it’s a family. They were visited by Kröhle and photographed with an apparent ethnographic or ethnological purpose during his expedition to the Amazon.49 As in the context of Kröhle’s original photograph, in Pollack’s retouched and colored postcard, they are called cannibals, “indios antropófagos,” affirming an old stereotype (dating back to Amerigo Vespucchi, or the yet mentioned account of Hans Staden and the engravings of de Bry50) that generated a pleasant chill down the spine of a public that loved well-dosed terror.

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 14. “Indios Antropófagos, Rio Pachitea (Perú).” Photographer: Charles Kröhle (1888); publisher: Eduardo Polack, Lima, sent in 1900.

Courtesy of SHMH/Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, signature 1965/702/32.

Actually, the indigenous persons portrayed in this picture most likely were victims of a slave hunt. So, on the one hand, victims (slaves) were turned to potential offenders (cannibals). On the other hand, enslavement was qualified, if not legitimized, by the dangerous nature and barbarity of the alleged man-eaters. The historic background consists of the rubber boom in the Amazon, and local indigenous people were pressed into labor due to the lack of a workforce. Their living and work conditions were miserable, although officially, the workers were not slaves. This issue has been dealt with recently in the novel The Dream of the Celt by Peruvian noble prizewinner Mario Vargas Llosa.51

The visual dichotomy of indigenous past and urban or national modernity found in many picture postcards represents the internal colonization that was effected, for instance, in Argentina in the so-called “conquest of the desert” (conquista del desierto). Former unexploited areas like the Argentinean Pampas and Patagonia, or later the Chaco, were integrated into the national territory; the indigenous population was killed, expelled, and/or subjected to modern living conditions and capitalist conditions of production. Following the same pattern, the Chilean army marched against the Mapuche in the territory south of the Bío Bío River, from the 1860s to the 1880s, in a campaign known as Pacification, or Occupation of Araucanía. (Today, the ongoing violent conquests of indigenous lands by governments, agents of multinational corporations, or other racketeers, are undertaken more secretly, only seldom with such large-scale and overt violence.) Views of indigenous groups and individuals and of ancient ruins thus constituted the other side of the binary representation of modernity and tradition, of civilization and barbarianism, of culture and nature, of the future of the modern nation-state and the indigenous past.52 This narrative, of extinct indigenous cultures leaving only ruins, and of existing indigenous people doomed to extinction because of their “racial inferiority” to the white population, was very strong. It dominated political and scientific discourses.53 The contrast between backward indigenous cultures and modern nations becomes most obvious in images that show the clash of past and present. This clash manifests itself in the postcard issued on behalf of the centenary of the Argentine Republic. Progress, in form of a train, literally overruns the half-naked “primitive” (figure 15).

Collecting Picture Postcards of South AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 15.Centenario de la República Argentina. Exposición Internacional de Ferrocarriles y Transportes Terrestres. Buenos Aires Mayo à Noviembre 1910.” Publisher unknown, Buenos Aires, Argentina, c. 1910.

Courtesy of Daniel M. Cisilino, Dublin/Buenos Aires.

Conclusion

Picture postcards of the late 19th and early 20th century show most ambivalent images of South America. On the one hand, these postcards are part of an imagination of the global periphery and thus, in some aspects, similar to perceptions of Africa or the Orient. Though paradoxical, there are even colonial notions in some views. On the other hand, processes of internal colonization, as occurred in the wake of the so-called “conquest of the desert,” for instance, and the sovereignty of the South American nations, including national specifics, were visualized in postcards. The resulting ambivalence, not only of images but also of interpretations or gazes onto the visual media, provides many starting points for future research in the fields of Latin American visual culture, transnational and global cultural history, and media studies (see, for example, the article Digital Research on the Visual Culture of Spanish America). It is necessary to expand the frame of the images of South American postcards and go beyond views of indigenous people. There are a lot of postcards showing landscapes, for instance, or cities that are waiting for analysis. Investigations are needed at the level of the representation, visualization, and imagination of South America. Comparisons are to be drawn, for instance, to other visual and textual media (literature, newspapers, magazines, etc.), as well as comparisons of different South American countries and comparisons to other world regions. Furthermore, longue durée studies of dis/continuities in the (visual) representation, from conquest through colonial and republican ages until today, are desiderata that might well include analysis of picture postcards. There is a lot to explore in the emerging field of the study of picture postcards of South America.

Discussion of the Literature

As stated at the beginning of the article, picture postcards came into focus only recently for historical research. Besides studies on European postcards, a lot of works are colonial and postcolonial studies on African and Asian images.54 In Germany, especially, quite a few studies have been published in the last years, but due to language barriers, these obviously have not been widely acknowledged. The literature on picture postcards from South America is scarce and focuses mostly on the visualization and representation of indigenous South Americans.55 Studies on Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay prevail, geographically. Pioneering studies are the works of Carlos Masotta,56 as well as those of Mariana Giordano and Patricia Méndez.57 For publishers in Chile, see Samuel León Cáceres et al.,58 and for Argentina, see another pioneering work, by Graciela Silvestri.59 Other studies include Jaime Flores and Alonso Azócar,60 and Emilio José Luque Azcona.61 Additionally, see articles on postcards by Hinnerk Onken,62 including “Ambivalente Bilder”63 which describes a research project that, in the near future will result in the publication of a book on Ambivalent Images: Photographs and Postcards from South America, c. 18801930.

Primary Sources

Institutions with notable collections of picture postcards include many of the U.S. libraries that specialize in Latin America, such as the University of Texas; the Altonaer Museum, Hamburg, Germany; Biblioteca Nacional de la República Argentina; the ETH-Bibliothek’s image holdings in Switzerland (legacy of Adolf Feller with 54,000 picture postcards, digital copies are to be found on the website); Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, Berlin, Germany (e.g., in the legacies of Robert Lehmann-Nitsche and Max Uhle); Leibniz‐Institut für Länderkunde e.V., Leipzig, Germany (e.g., legacy of Moritz Alphons Stübel in the Archiv für Geographie, digital copies on the website); Museo Histórico Nacional, Chile, digital copies are to be found on the website; Museo Ravennate di Scienze Naturali “Alfredo Brandolini,” Ravenna, Italy (legacy of Stefano Cavazzutti, digital copies are to be found on the website of the Società di Ricerca e Studio della Romagna Mineraria); Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, the Netherlands, some digital copies are to be found on the website; and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz—Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin, Germany.64 An unknown but probably huge number of historical picture postcards of South America is in private hands, left to children by parents and grandparents, or gathered by private collectors. You can get an idea of this latter sector by browsing the websites of online traders. There are many dealers in the United States and in Latin America. An incomplete list of European traders can be found on the website of the DFG-funded research project “Visionen und Visualisierungen: Südamerika in Bildmedien des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts” led by Barbara Potthast and Jens Jäger from the University of Cologne. Well-known collectors of South American postcards include Daniel Cisilino, an Argentinean photographer now living in Dublin, the scholar Carlos Masotta, or Humberto Currarino, of Callao. See Enrique Sánchez Hernani,65Postales del Callao de principios del siglo XX,” El Comercio, August 23, 2008, and the Website of Daniel Cisilino, Antiguas Postales Argentinas, which provides a lot of information not only on the history of Argentinean postcards but also on collecting postcards, dating postcards, and much more. Lamentably, the website is not updated any more.

A number of further blogs and internet forums, where collectors exchange ideas and pictures, such as: Benjamin Dunn, “Postcards from Punta Arenas,” The Dunn Saga, April 11, 2011; Fotomuseo Argentino: Museo virtual de viejas fotos; Miguel A. Velilla, “Paraguay de antes”; Patricio Aguirre Warden and Carlos Vergara, “ChileCollector”; Walterio, “La fragilidad de los retiros” (Argentinean postcards). Published collections of postcards of South America include the catalogues of Carlos Masotta,66 and the self-published works of Marcelo Loeb and Jeremy Howat,67 as well as Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, ed., Buenos Aires hace cien años, a travez de sus postales (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Comisión para la Preservación del Patrimonio Histórico Cultural de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 2003). For picture postcards of Brazil see the catalogues by João Emilio Gerodetti and Carlos Cornejo,68 as well as Pedro Vasquez,69 and Carlos Benevides Lima Jr.70

Further Reading

Barrueto, Jorge J. “El indio en las tarjetas postales: Metáforas visuales del miedo y la ansiedad política en Latinoamérica.” In Moros en la costa: Orientalismo en Latinoamérica. Edited by Silvia Nagy-Zekmi, 41–68. Madrid: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2008.Find this resource:

Cáceres, Samuel León, FernandoVergara Benítez, Katya Padilla Macías, and Atilio Bustos González. Historia de la postal en Chile. Valparaiso: Pontificia Universidad Católica, 2007.Find this resource:

Geary, Christraud M., and Virginia-Lee Webb, eds. Delivering Views: Distant Cultures in Early Postcards. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Masotta, Carlos. “Representación e iconografía de dos tipos nacionales: El caso de las postales etnográficas en Argentina 1900–1930.” In Arte y antropología en la Argentina. Edited by Marina Baron Supervielle, 65–114. Buenos Aires: Fundación Telefonica, Fundación Espigas, Fondo para la Investigación del Arte Argentino, 2005.Find this resource:

Onken, Hinnerk. “Visiones y visualizaciones: La nación en tarjetas postales sudamericanas a fines del siglo XIX y comienzos del siglo XX.” Iberoamericana 14.56 (2014): 47–69.Find this resource:

Prochaska, David, and Jordana Mendelson, eds, Postcards: Ephemeral Histories of Modernity. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Silvestri, Graciela. “Postales Argentinas.” In La Argentina en el siglo XX. Edited by Carlos Altamira, 111–135. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ariel, 1999.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Besides studies on European postcards, a lot of works are colonial and postcolonial studies on African and Asian images. See, for example, Christraud M. Geary and Virginia-Lee Webb, ed., Delivering Views: Distant Cultures in Early Postcards (Washington, DC, and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998); David Prochaska and Jordana Mendelson (eds), Postcards: Ephemeral Histories of Modernity (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010); or recently, Felix Axster, Koloniales Spektakel in 9x14: Bildpostkarten im Deutschen Kaiserreich (Bielefeld, Germany: transcript, 2014).

(2.) See, for example, Carlos Masotta, “Almas robadas: Exotismo y ambigüedad en las postales etnográficas argentinas,” Cuadernos del INAPL 19 (2002–2003): 422–440; Carlos Masotta, “Cuerpos dóciles y miradas encontradas: Miniaturización de los cuerpos e indicios de la resistencia en las postales de indios argentinas (1900–1940),” Revista Chilena de Antropología Visual, no. 3 (2003): 1–16; Carlos Masotta, “Representación e iconografía de dos tipos nacionales: El caso de las postales etnográficas en Argentina 1900–1930,” in Arte y antropología en la Argentina, ed. Marina Baron Supervielle (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Fundación Telefonica; Fundación Espigas; Fondo para la Investigación del Arte Argentino, 2005), 65–114; Carlos Masotta, “El atlas invisible: Historias de archivo en torno a la muestra ‘Almas Robadas—Postales de Indios,’” Corpus: Archivos virtuales de la alteridad americana 1.1 (2011); Mariana Giordano and Patricia Méndez, “Indígenas chaqueños en las imágenes de postales argentinas: Primeras décadas del Siglo XX,” in Unidad y diversidad en América Latina: Conflictos y Coincidencias, vol. 1, ed. María C. Longinotti, (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Facultad de Letras y Humanidades, Universidad Católica Argentina, 2000), 197–212. Furthermore, there are studies on Mexican and Central American postcards, see, for example, Daniel D. Arreola, Postcards from the Río Bravo Border: Picturing the Place, Placing the Picture, 1900s1950s (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013).

(3.) The Altonaer Museum, which belongs to the Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg, is a museum of cultural history and hosts one of the largest collections of postcards in Germany. Among the estimated two million postcards, there are about 1,500 displaying South American images.

(4.) For the history of the picture postcard see, for example, Esther Milne, Letters, Postcards, Email: Technologies of Presence (New York: Routledge, 2010); more detailed is the German pioneering study by Karin Walter, Postkarte und Fotografie: Studien zur Massenbild-Produktion (Würzburg, Germany: Bayerische Blätter für Volkskunde, 1995).

(5.) The divided back was officially introduced in 1907 by the Universal Postal Union. In Germany, it was introduced two years earlier, and in Argentina, in 1906.

(6.) See Eva Tropper, “Bild/Störung: Beschriebene Postkarten um 1900,” Fotogeschichte 30.118 (2010): 5–16.

(7.) See Graciela Silvestri, “El viaje de las Señoritas,” Revista todaVIA, April 2003.

(8.) The desire for photographic images of the rural population was provided mostly by traveling photographers. See Greg Grandin, “Can the Subaltern Be Seen? Photography and the Affects of Nationalism,” Hispanic American Historial Review 84.1 (2004): 83–112. Only in the course of the 20th century did cameras and photographic material become affordable for members of South America’s middle and, still later, lower classes. See, for example, Daniel James and Mirta Zaida Lobato, “Family Photos, Oral Narratives, and Identity Formation: The Ukrainians of Berisso,” Hispanic American Historial Review 84.1 (2004): 5–36.

(9.) See, for example, Anon., “Guido Boggiani,” American Anthropologist 4 (1902): 568; Anon., “La trágica muerte del artista Boggiani,” Caras y Caretas 5.217 (1902): 29–31; Theodor Koch-Grünberg, “Guido Boggiani, ein neues Opfer des Gran Chaco,” Globus 82.22 (1902): 359; Robert Lehmann-Nitsche, “Nähere Nachrichten über die Ermordung des verdienten italienischen Reisenden Guido Boggiani,” Globus 83.5 (1903): 81–82; Robert Lehmann-Nitsche, “Über die letzten Schicksale des Malers Guido Boggiani,” Globus 87.2 (1905): 35–36. For Boggiani’s biography see Julio Rafael Contreras Roqué, Guido Boggiani (1861–1901): Entre la memoria y el olvido (Asunción, Paraguay: Fundación de Historia Natural “Felix Azara,” 2009) and Pavel Frič and Yvonna Fričová, Guido Boggiani: Fotograf fotografo/fotógrafo photographer (Prague: Nakladatelství Titanic, 1997); as well as more briefly, Mariana Giordano, “De Boggiani a Métraux: Ciencia antropológica y fotografía en el Gran Chaco,” Revista Chilena de Antropología Visual, no. 4 (2004): 365–390.

(10.) Robert Lehmann-Nitsche, ed., Die Sammlung Boggiani von Indianertypen aus dem centralen Südamerika/La Colección Boggiani de tipos indígenas de Sudamerica central (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Rosauer, 1904).

(11.) Alexander Francis Chamberlain, “Review La Coleccion Boggiani de Tipos indigenas de Sudamerica Central, Publicada por Robert Lehmann-Nitsche,” American Anthropologist 7 (1905): 325–326.

(12.) Some of these copies have been digitized and are available online, see, for example, the websites of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, or of the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, The Netherlands. The digital copies from the legacy of Cavazzutti are to be found on the website of the Società di Ricerca e Studio della Romagna Mineraria. Another—and in my opinion the best—digital version is to be found on the website of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. It is based on the copy in the legacy of Princess Theresa of Bavaria.

(13.) Mariana Giordano, “Nación e identidad en los imaginarios visuales de la Argentina: siglos XIX y XX,” Arbor 185.740 (2009): 1283–1298, here 1285.

(14.) The studio was founded by French photographer Pedro Emilio Garreaud (1835–1875) who, in 1855, came to Latin America and first installed himself in Peru before coming to Chile ten years later. For Odber Heffer Bisset see Margarita Alvarado Pérez, Pedro Mege Rosso, and Christian Biez Allende, ed., Mapuche: Fotografías Siglo XIX y XX. Construcción y montaje de un imaginario (Santiago, Chile: Pehuén Editores, 2001).

(15.) For Olds, see Luis Priamo, H. G. Olds: Fotografías, 1900–1943 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones Fundación Antorchas, 1998).

(16.) For Vargas, see Jorge Villacorta Chávez and Andrés Garay Albújar, Emilio Díaz y Max T. Vargas: Los orígenes de la fotografía en Arequipa y en el sur andino peruano (Lima, Peru: Instituto Peruano de Arte y Diseño, 2007), as well as Annika Buchholz, “Fotografie ohne Grenzen: Max T. Vargas’ Einfluss als Studiofotograf, Künstler und Unternehmer im südlichen Peru,” in Forscher und Unternehmer mit Kamera: Geschichten von Bildern und Fotografen aus der Fotothek des Ibero-Amerikanischen Instituts, ed. Gregor Wolff (Berlin: Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, 2014), 126–135.

(17.) From the rich literature on Chambi and the Cuzco school see Jorge Coronado, The Andes Imagined: Indigenismo, Society, and Modernity (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009); Andrés Garay Albújar, Martín Chambi, por sí mismo (Lima, Peru: University of Piura, 2010); Paula Trevisan and Luis Massa, “Fotografías cusqueñas atravesando el indigenismo,” Aisthesis, no. 46 (2009): 39–64; Adelma Benavente García, “The Cusco School: Photography in Southern Peru, 1900–30,” History of Photography 24.2 (2000): 101–105; Michele M. Penhall, “The Invention and Reinvention of Martin Chambi,” History of Photography 24.2 (2000): 106–112; Edward Ranney, “New Light on the Cusco School: Juan Manuel Figueroa and Martín Chambi,” History of Photography 24.2 (2000): 113–120; Deborah Poole, “Figueroa Aznar and the Cusco Indigenistas: Photography and Modernism in Early Twentieth-Century Peru,” Representations, no. 38 (1992): 39–75, as well as Edward Ranney and Publio López Mondéjar, ed., Martín Chambi, 1920–1950, with a foreword by Mario Vargas Llosa (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993).

(18.) For publishers in Chile, see Samuel León Cáceres, Fernando Vergara Benítez, Katya Padilla Macías, and Atilio Bustos González, ed., Historia de la postal en Chile (Valparaiso, Chile: Pontificia Universidad Católica, 2007), and for Argentina Graciela Silvestri, “Postales Argentinas,” in La Argentina en el siglo XX, ed. Carlos Altamira (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ariel, 1999), 111–135. For other countries there are only a very few studies; see, for example, (I don’t know what I had in mind when I wrote this: this one is also on Chile, please delete it) Emilio José Luque Azcona, “Los imaginarios de Montevideo a través de sus tarjetas postales (1890–1930),” Contrastes: Revista de Historia Moderna 13 (2008): 57–75.

(19.) See Duncan Campbell, “The British Presence in Southern Patagonia.” On Campbell’s website, there is also a photo of the shop. More Poirier postcards can be viewed on Benjamin Dunn’s blog, “Postcards from Punta Arenas,” The Dunn Saga, April 11, 2011.

(20.) See Jochen Voigt, Faszination Sammeln: Cartes de visite: Eine Kulturgeschichte der photographischen Visitenkarte (Chemnitz, Germany: Ed. Mobilis, 2006), and for the Andean region, see Deborah Poole, Vision, Race, and Modernity: A Visual Economy of the Andean Image World (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997).

(21.) English captions on some postcards, for instance on those published by Mitchell’s Book Store in Buenos Aires, might be a hint that postcards were designed for this purpose. On the other hand, English captions might be owed to Mitchell’s first language or to the international design of postcards in general—the name of the Universal Postal Union, for example, often appeared in French (Union Postale Universelle)—or to the site of production: until the 1910s, Mitchell’s postcards were printed in England. There are postcards of South America with German captions (see figure 2), printed in Germany. But not all postcards printed in Germany had German captions; they were also printed in Spanish and English.

(22.) Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, “Der Archivar des Alltags: Robert Lehmann-Nitsche,” Miradas Alemanas hacia América Latina, 2009.

(23.) For a cultural and analytical approach to collecting and to the psychology of the collector see Jens Andermann, The Optic of the State: Visuality and Power in Argentina and Brazil (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), 12–13.

(24.) “Existían listas y revistas especializadas para promover el intercambio.” Silvestri, “El viaje de las Señoritas,” translation by H. O.

(25.) ETH Zürich, “Die Postkartensammlung von Adolf Feller,” ETHeritage: Highlights aus den Sammlungen und Archiven der ETH-Bibliothek. According to Carlos Masotta, one of the few specialists in the field, collectors were mainly women. See Carlos Masotta, Gauchos en las primeras postales fotográficas argentinas del s. XX/Gauchos in the Early 1900s: Argentine Photo Postcards (Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Marca Ed., 2007). I doubt Masotta’s assertion, as in the course of my investigations at least, I found more male than female collectors in Germany.

(26.) For an incomplete list see the website of the DFG-funded research project “Visionen und Visualisierungen: Südamerika in Bildmedien des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts,” led by Barbara Potthast and Jens Jäger from the University of Cologne. Well-known collectors of South American postcards are Daniel Cisilino, an Argentinean photographer now living in Dublin, Carlos Masotta, who has been mentioned, and Humberto Currarino of Callao, Peru. See Enrique Sánchez Hernani, “Postales del Callao de principios del siglo XX,” El Comercio, August 23, 2008, and the Website of Daniel Cisilino, Antiguas Postales Argentinas.

(27.) See Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Facundo: Civilización y barbarie, ed. Roberto Yahni (Madrid: Cátedra, 1990). Originally published in 1845.

(28.) “Man könnte sich ebenso gut in Bordeaux oder Triest befinden.” Karl May, Am Rio de la Plata (Bamberg, Germany: Karl-May-Verlag, 1983), 17; translation by H. O., reprint of the first edition (1894).

(29.) See Bruno Latour, “Visualization and Cognition: Drawing Things Together,” Knowledge and Society 6 (1986): 1–40. German historian and expert in visual studies Gerhard Paul therefore even coined the term “century of the images” for the 20th century. Gerhard Paul, ed., Das Jahrhundert der Bilder, 2 vols. (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008–2009). For an introduction into the history of photography and visual history see Jens Jäger, Fotografie und Geschichte (Frankfurt: Campus, 2009).

(30.) Hans Staden, Americae vol. 3, Brasilia (Francofurti ad Moenum: de Bry, 1593), to see a digital copy held by the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.

(31.) See Hinnerk Onken, “Visiones y visualizaciones: La nación en tarjetas postales sudamericanas a fines del siglo XIX y comienzos del siglo XX,” Iberoamericana 14.56 (2014): 47–69, and Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso), 1983.

(32.) For a description of the research project “Ambivalent Images: Photographs and Picture Postcards from South America in Germany, c. 1880–1930,” sponsored by the DFG, see Hinnerk Onken, “Ambivalente Bilder: Fotos und Bildpostkarten aus Südamerika im Deutschen Reich, ca. 1880–1930,” Rundbrief Fotografie 21.1/2 (2014): 8–16.

(33.) See Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, repr. (London: Routledge, 1993), esp. 4 and 6–7; and John Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies, 2d ed. (London: SAGE, 2002). The first edition was published in 1990. The concept of the tourist gaze is not totally anachronistic, as revealed by the travel account on Venezuela by German Eberhard Graf zu Erbach, Wandertage eines deutschen Touristen im Strom- und Küstengebiet des Orinoko (Leipzig: Thomas, 1892).

(34.) Pratt, Imperial Eyes, p. 5.

(35.) See Jens Jäger, “Globalisierte Bilder—Postkarten und Fotografie: Überlegungen zur medialen Verklammerung von ‘Ost’ und ‘West’,” zeitenblicke 10.2 (2011). Of course, the sender could relativize the “truth” of the view in a critical comment, but this happened very seldom.

(36.) “Dasjenige, was vor Ort für bedeutsam wie überlokal für repräsentativ gehalten wurde. Dies reflektiert lokale wie allgemeine Diskurse beispielsweise über Urbanität, Darstellungen von Stadt und spezifischer Orte, ‚nationale‘ Eigenheiten, die Bedeutsamkeit von Monumenten und Architektur oder Landschaft, die auf diese Weise als typisch oder charakteristisch markiert werden.” Jäger, “Globalisierte Bilder,” translation by H. O. Mrs Ingeborg Hass, more than ninety years old and still in charge of the postcard collection of the Altonaer Museum in Hamburg, told me how she, time and again, looked at the postcards of the collection of her father’s when she was a child. The pictures of so many more or less strange places that she looked up in the atlas not only shaped her (geographical) knowledge of the world but also her imagination of these places.

(37.) See Roland Barthes, “Rhetorik des Bildes,” in Der entgegenkommende und der stumpfe Sinn, translated by Dieter Hornig, vol. 3 of Kritische Essays (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1990), 24–46; originally published in 1964.

(38.) See Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, On Historicizing Epistemology: An Essay (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010), originally published in German in 2007. And see in brief Jens Jäger, “Fotografiegeschichte(n): Stand und Tendenzen der historischen Forschung,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 48 (2008): 511–537, here 521.

(39.) See, for example, Homi K. Bhabha, “The Other Question: Difference, Discrimination, and the Discourse of Colonialism,” in Visual Culture: The Reader, ed. Jessica Evans and Stuart Hall (London: SAGE, 1999), 370–378, originally published in 1983; Stuart Hall, “Ethnicity: Identity and Difference,” in Becoming National: A Reader, ed. Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 339–349, originally published in 1989; Elizabeth Hallam and Brian V. Street, ed., Cultural Encounters: Representing Otherness (London: Routledge, 2000).

(40.) See, for example, Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), Raymond Corbey, “Alterity: The Colonial Nude,” Critique of Anthropology 8.3 (1988), 75–92; or Leïla Sebbar and Jean-Michel Belorgey, Femmes d’Afrique du nord: Cartes postales, 1885–1930 (Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, France: Bleu autour, 2002); and the criticism on Malloula’s reading offered, for instance, by Saloni Mathur, “Wanted: Native Views. Collecting Colonial Postcards in India,” in Gender, Sexuality and Colonial Modernities, ed. Antoinette Burton, 95–115 (New York: Routledge, 1999) or Jennifer Yee, “Recycling the ‘Colonial Harem’? Women in Postcards from French Indochina,” French Cultural Studies 15.1 (2004), 5–19. See also Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Context (New York: Routledge, 1995).

(41.) See Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Routledge & Kegan, 1978).

(42.) See, for example, the works of Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002) and Ann Laura Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire. Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995); and an article of mine on the highly controversial mixed-race marriages in German Southwest Africa— Hinnerk Onken, “Wir sind Deutsche, wir sind Weiße und wir wollen Weiße bleiben!’ Die Debatte um die sogenannten ‘Rassenmischehen’ in ‘Deutsch-Südwestafrika’,” sozial.geschichte.extra, December 10, 2007, (last accessed 07/27/2015).

(43.) For a more detailed study, see Hinnerk Onken, “‘Südamerika: Ein Zukunftsland der Menschheit:’ Colonial Imagination and Photographs from South America in Weimar Germany,” in Weimar Colonialism: Discourses and Legacies of Post-Imperialism in Germany after 1918, ed. Florian Krobb and Elaine Martin (Bielefeld, Germany: Aisthesis, 2014), 145–166.

(44.) Susanne Zantop, Colonial Fantasies: Conquest, Family, and Nation in Precolonial Germany, 1770–1870 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997).

(45.) The term “sexotic” is borrowed from the title of a workshop, organized in the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development, February 19–20, 2015, by Magdalena Beljan, Pascal Eitler, Benno Gammerl and Ulrike Schaper, “Sexotic: Workshop on Moral Economies, Body Techniques, Media, and the Interplay between Sexuality and Exoticization.”

(46.) A rare document is the postcard “Un conventillo” from the collection of Daniel Cisilino, published by Jacobo Peuser of Buenos Aires. It shows the dark side of the modern metropolis: the social question, confined living conditions, and poverty. See Daniel Cisilino, “Conventillo,” Foto-MuseoArgentino.com.ar, June 13, 2009.

(47.) A postcard with the innocent title “Recuerdo de la República del Paraguay,” published by Roberto Rosauer before 1906, displays the “Reparto Víveres a los Indios” as explains the less innocent caption. See the postcard from the collection of Stefano Cavazzutti on the website of the Società di Ricerca e Studio della Romagna Mineraria.

(48.) See Mariana Giordano, “Memoria de una alteridad periférica: Imaginario del indígena chaqueño en la fotografía contemporánea,” in Arte Latinoamericano del siglo XX: Expresiones de la otra historia, ed. Rodrigo Gutiérrez Viñuales (Zaragoza, Spain: Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza, 2005), 285–311, here 300–301.

(49.) See Frank Stephan Kohl, “Land und Leute in Ost-Peru 1888–1891, dokumentiert von Kroehle & Hübner,” in Forscher und Unternehmer mit Kamera: Geschichten von Bildern und Fotografen aus der Fotothek des Ibero-Amerikanischen Instituts, ed. Gregor Wolff (Berlin: Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, 2014), 76–85, esp. 85. (last accessed 03/12/2015).

(50.) See, for example, Carlos A. Jáuregui, Canibalia: Canibalismo, calibanismo, antropofagia cultural y consumo en América Latina (Madrid: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2008), as well as Staden, Brasilia and Franz Obermeier, “Bilder von Kannibalen, Kannibalismus im Bild. Brasilianische Indios in Bildern und Texten des 16. Jahrhunderts,” JbLA 38 (2001): 49–72.

(51.) See Mario Vargas Llosa, The Dream of the Celt (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), originally published in Spanish in 2010.

(52.) This dichotomous view is still quite popular in Argentina, especially among the political right. See, for instance, an apologetic article on the so-called “conquest of the desert” published in the national newspaper La Nación by right-wing historian José Juan Cresto, until 2005 director of the National Historical Museum and president of the Academía Argentina de la Historia, José Juan Cresto, “Roca y el mito del genocidio,” La Nación, November 23.

(53.) Photography was seen and used by many scientists to conserve, at least visually, these cultures in extinction. See a letter Theodor Koch-Grünberg sent to Karl Weule in Michael Kraus, Bildungsbürger im Urwald: Die deutsche ethnologische Amazonienforschung, 1884–1929 (Marburg: Curupira, 2004), 481.

(54.) See, for instance, Geary and Webb, Delivering Views: Distant Cultures.

(55.) See, for example, Jorge J. Barrueto, “El indio en las tarjetas postales: Metáforas visuales del miedo y la ansiedad política en Latinoamérica,” in Moros en la costa: Orientalismo en Latinoamérica, ed. Silvia Nagy-Zekmi (Madrid: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2008), 41–68.

(56.) Masotta, “Almas robadas;” Masotta, “Cuerpos dóciles y miradas;” Masotta, “Representación e iconografía; Masotta, “El atlas invisible; Giordano and Méndez, “Indígenas chaqueños.”

(57.) Giordano and Méndez, “Indígenas chaqueños.”

(58.) León Cáceres et al., Historia de la postal en Chile.

(59.) Graciela Silvestri. “Postales Argentinas.”

(60.) Flores and Azócar, “Tarjetas postales de los capuchinos,” Aisthesis.

(61.) Azcona, “Los imaginarios de Montevideo.”

(62.) Onken, “Visiones y visualizaciones.

(63.) Onken, “Ambivalente Bilder.”

(64.) See Hinnerk Onken, “Postcards from Latin America,” in: Exploring the Archive: Historical Photography from Latin America. The Collection of the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin, ed. Manuela Fischer and Michael Kraus (Köln: Böhlau, 2015), 151–173.

(65.) Hernani, “Postales del Callao.”

(66.) Masotta, Gauchos en las primeras postales fotográficas; Carlos Masotta, Indios en las primeras postales fotográficas argentinas del s. XX/Indians in the Early 1900s: Argentine Photo Postcards (Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Marca Ed., 2007); Carlos Masotta, Paisajes en las primeras postales fotográficas argentinas del s. XX/Landscapes in the Early 1900s: Argentine Photo Postcards (Buenos Aires: La Marca Ed., 2007); and Carlos Masotta, Albúm postal/A Postcard Album (Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Marca Ed., 2008).

(67.) Marcelo Loeb and Jeremy Howat, Catálogo descriptivo de postales argentinas: Roberto Rosauer, 1901–1909 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: self-publ., 1992); Marcelo Loeb and Jeremy Howat, Catálogo Descriptivo de Postales Argentinas: Adolfo Kapelusz y Cía, 1907–1924 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: self-publ., 1992); and see Marcelo Loeb, Catálogo Descriptivo de Postales Argentinas: Jacobo Peuser, 1899–1935—Stephan Lumpert, “Antigua Casa Pernegg” (Buenos Aires, Argentina: self-publ., 1997).

(68.) João Emilio Gerodetti and Carlos Cornejo, Lembranças de São Paulo, 3 vols. (São Paulo, Brazil: Ed. Solaris, 1999–2003); Gerodetti and Cornejo, Lembranças do Brasil: As capitais brasileiras nos cartões-postais e álbuns de lembranças (São Paulo: Ed. Solaris, 2004); Gerodetti and Cornejo, Lembranças As ferrovias do Brasil: Nos cartões-postais e álbuns de lembranças (São Paulo, Brazil: Ed. Solaris, 2005); Gerodetti and Cornejo, Lembranças Navios e portos do Brasil (São Paulo, Brazil: Ed. Solaris, 2006); and Gerodetti and Cornejo, Lembranças Do Brasil para as Americas nos cartões-postais e álbuns de lembranças (São Paulo, Brazil: Ed. Solaris, 2008).

(69.) Pedro Vasquez, Postaes do Brazil, 1893–1930 (São Paulo, Brazil: Metalivros, 2002).

(70.) Carlos Benevides Lima Jr., Era uma vez . . . Victória: A memória da cidade em cartões postais enviados entre 1900 e 1960 (Victória, Brazil: Ed. Multiplicidade, 2000).