This essay investigates the conditions of portrait photography in Taiwan during Japanese colonization. After a brief introduction to the theoretical issues concerning the indexical nature of the photograph, I consider the Japanese colonial photographic industry and its products (portraits) in three contexts: the state of photographic technology in the world at that time, the ideological machinery of colonization in Taiwan, and the wider phenomenon of colonial mimicry. In this consideration, I offer a diachronic analysis of photo albums and commercial directories that contain formal portraits of politically and economically influential (almost exclusively) men. Bringing these considerations together suggests an aspect of the colonial ideological machinery that has been underrepresented in other studies: the colonial portrait as a mask in several forms.
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Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 2014.