However, after discovering the hill tribe men, also known as Igorots, he focused all his attention to photographing them. He was instantly attracted to the Igorots, due to their seemingly remedial culture, and his original intent of showing Filipinos and their “unfitness”. Instead of pointing his camera towards the growing metropolitan cities like Manila, He chose to photograph the Igorots as the image of the Philippines. He photographed these hill tribe men in great detail amassing about 5000 photographs. Worcester was one of the first photographers to photograph subjects in nudity as part of an anthropological study.
Worcester’s anthropological studies and his photographs were a vital contribution to the Philippine’s first census that was published in 1903 by Dr. Jenks.
Albert E. Jenks, or commonly known as Dr. Jenks was a self-taught ethnographer that was hired by the Bureau of American Ethnology and was sent to Manila in the Philippines in 1902. His 1905 publication, The Bontoc Igorot was a milestone in American anthropology for being the first ethnographic study of a non-American Indian group by an American anthropologist.
As seen with the publishing of the first census, photographs were used to gather information not only about the anthropology of the people but also as data for the military. Prior to the American occupation, the Philippines was not a completely unified nation as they had previously believed. There were still some rebellions in the south caused by the Muslim population. Using photographs, they learned much about the Filipinos. Americans gathered information using photography as proof and evidence to anchor their tactics to fight the rebels. Since cameras were so scarcely available, they took advantage of it in the battlefield.
Long before the war was officially declared over, albums of photographs of bombed churches, cannons, Manila landmarks, and massacred Filipino “insurgents” were already being published in 1899. It was crucial for America to place the Filipino’s under the “Kodak zone”. They even solicited photographs from their own soldiers. Governor-General W. Cameron Forbes said that “If a photograph were needed, this bureau not only took it, but filed it away so that it might be available in the years to come”. The archive that they gathered of the Philippines was not just a collection of photographs but also a collection of scrutinized surveillance subjects.
America also sent the Thomasites to the Philippines, a group of five hundred American Teachers in 1901. They were to establish a new public school system, to teach basic education, and to train Filipino teachers, with English as the medium of instruction. The teachers not only taught the Filipinos but learned about their inherent culture as well. One of the Thomasite, Philinda Rand, took photos that show many aspects of Filipino life in Silay and Lingayen. These photographs became another tool for surveillance, as the teachers were requested to report back to show their progress.
Benito Vergara author of Displaying Filipinos (1995), argues that both travel literature and official colonial documents, both appropriate photography as an instrument of surveillance.
Ultimately, the American government used all of the previously mentioned types of photography for propaganda. Like previously stated, America needed the Philippines to gain control of Asia. The waning interest of the public became detrimental to that cause. Photography was vital for the manipulation of the public interest.
The power of photography is in its innate capability of making people believe and its capacity to be invested with truth. Yet, the amount of possibilities to disorient the meaning behind a photograph is limitless. Manipulation can occur in almost every part of the process of taking a photograph, for example, posing. In most of the photographs taken by Dean Worcester, which was brought back and shown to the American populace, the Filipino tribe men stood beside Americans. They were posed to look subordinate to the Americans as they stood awkwardly, half naked. However, when photographed alone and by a different photographer, the tribe men stood proud and dignified.
These photographs reflect the pre-construction of meaning specifically predicated on a colonial ideology, or also known as “White Man’s Burden”. Murat Halstead a war correspondent said that “It was foreordained since the beginning when God created the earth, that we, the possessors of this imperial American zone, should be a great Asiatic power.” Due to the technology of being able to reproduce and circulate these photographs, it was easy for the government to persuade the public that they were needed to intervene in the Philippines.
All these ideas and photographs regarding the splendor Filipino colonialism reached its peak in the 1904 St. Louis World Fair. Dr. Jenks was appointed supervisor for the Philippine exhibit at the St. Louis world fair. This exhibit was the culmination of the anthropological research and photographs that he and Worcester took while in the Philippines. The exhibit cost over one million dollars and consisted of 47 acres of space, 130 buildings, 70,000 exhibits, and 1,200 Filipino “natives”. The Filipinos were put in displays as if animals in a zoo, and were further exploited through the exhibit, travelling around America for a year due to its popularity.
The meticulous collection of photographs and foreign objects proves the American government’s deep surveillance of the Philippines. The exhibit was also divided among the different types of Filipinos, creating a focus on stereotypes, which is revealed with Daniel Folkmar’s Album of Philippine Types. This in return, made the ethnology of the Philippines easier to digest for the American viewers. The President of the Exposition, David R. Francis wrote, “From this school many millions of Americans will return to their homes, elated with a better appreciation of humanity at large and a far higher and prouder estimate of their own country and countrymen".
To further entice positive public opinion on colonialism, photographs of Americans educating and improving the Filipinos and their lives widely circulated. Photographs from the Thomasites for example, portrayed the impact of their public education system. These photographs were shown after the immense circulation of photographs that showed the inferiority of Filipinos.
In conclusion, the image of the Philippines and its inhabitants, in the point of view of Americans were intricately constructed by the American government, using photography for anthropology, surveillance, and propaganda to legitimize their colonial regime. From the words of Christopher Pinney, “those who controlled the representations [exercised] domination”.