Anna May Wong and Cross-Racial Masquerade

The Chinese-American star, Anna May Wong, regularly appeared in films in roles that were non-Asian but always racialized. I am currently obsessed with how often imagery linked her with blackness, as in this Paramount Studio photograph by Eugene Robert Richee:

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F. Holland Day, Imperial Masculinity, and the Intimacy of Photography

Prepping a talk on F. Holland Day for a symposium. Here is my co-panelist, Shawn Michelle Smith’s take on him.

The Photographic Situation

Shawn Michelle Smith reflects on F. Holland Day’s exotic look and intimate looking

In the spring of 1901, F. Holland Day arrived unannounced at Frederick Evans’s studio in London, wearing a burnoose.  Evans invited him in to be photographed, and the two collaborated in making a series of intimate portraits of Day in Algerian dress.[i]  The portraits correspond to the height of Day’s international prominence as promoter and practitioner of the New American School of photography, a movement devoted to establishing photography as an art form through Pictorialist aesthetics.  After receiving mixed reviews in London, Day’s New American School exhibition was a huge success at the Photo-Club of Paris in the spring of 1901.  The exhibition showcased the work of Clarence White, Edward Steichen, and Day himself, among others, and included images from Day’s sacred series and his so-called “Nubian” series.  After the exhibition closed in Paris, Day and his young…

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Musings on Mr. Bojangles

In honor of Mr. Davis’s birthday, I present this comparison that I have been pondering since I stumbled across this image of Davis (top) on the web. Mr. Davis performing Mr. Bojangles here is an intriguing counterpoint to my discussion of Fred Astaire’s “Bojangles in Harlem” number in Swing Time (1936). [Props to Elizabeth Abel’s “Shadows” essay in Representations, of course] Davis’ adoption of Mr. Bojangles as signature song speaks back to Astaire’s racial masquerade/homage to Bill Robinson in forceful ways that I don’t yet know if I will include in my book. To be continued, perhaps…

Snippet of Astaire’s performance:

The Congo (1914)

Quintessential example of white modernists’ appropriation of blackness: The Congo by Vachel Lindsay, a poem from 1914