The Prior Sketches, 1888

Full Title:
The Illustrated London News

Melton Prior, et al.

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Overview: On December 15, 1887, the Illustrated London News launched its “Across Two Oceans” public relations/human interest series with an announcement that Melton Prior had departed from the port of Southampton aboard the steamship Moselle (205). Prior was one of the paper’s “special artists,” a term reserved for artists sent on high stakes public relations assignments—often deployed with the British military on major international campaigns. The first leg of the journey included visits to some of the major British colonies in the West Indies—Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad—as well as British Guiana and Panama. The result was a series of sketches that illustrate not merely the artist’s blend of journalistic voyeurism and colonialist aesthetic, but also provides the researcher with the means to observe the scope of this ostensibly anthropological project as consistent with a very explicit imperialist agenda.

This is to say nothing, yet, of the means by which that gaze may be troubled in new ways, leading eventually to a critical reclamation of the representations and a reconceptualization of the ethos it purports to have captured.

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