Observations and ideas about race, ethnicity and mixing.

Photographs and Susan Sontag

Since our last class on Thursday, I have not been able to stop thinking about the photographs we examined in class of indentured laborers in Trinidad. Being able to actually see snapshots into the lives of a group of people that we have been learning about was very eye-opening. Instead of abstractly thinking about the function of Indian laborers in society in the Caribbean, the photographs served as a concrete source of proof, a snapshot into their daily lives. Being able to see these women stooped over the rice paddies was much more impactful than just imagining it; it strengthened my understanding of indentured labor.


This weekend I started reading On Photography by Susan Sontag, and her ideas allowed me to view the experience of seeing those photographs in a different light. Sontag claims that “[p]hotographs furnish evidence” (5), and I certainly found that to be the case regarding my learning about the Coolies.


Works Cited

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. Picador, 2010.


  1. mcnealc

    I felt the same way! At first it was hard for me to visualize and understand the experiences of the Indentured laborers as I did not know much about their history/past before this class. The pictures really helped to illustrate their experiences.

  2. brodeenk

    Likewise, seeing the photos brought an ever-more realistic image of indentureship in the Caribbean. While reading different perspectives and books gave a mental visual of what it must have been like, seeing these photos brought it to life, making the situation feel realistic. Weeks later, I can still visualize the picture of the “family” and their indentureship workers creating a false image, see the men in the coconut farm, and see the facial gestures of the women in the rice fields. It brought the concepts we have been learning about to life, showing the harsh, unbearable conditions faced under indentureship.

  3. suessn

    I feel that seeing visuals help enrich learning as well, especially with historical subjects. Some aspects of history don’t seem completely real until there are images showing what the readings describe, and then it all becomes valid. Even though the historical descriptions were accurate before, viewing images unlocks a new level of comprehension.

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