Visualizing Colonialism: Photography of the Philippines


This primary source packet contains photographs from the United States colonial administration of the Philippines. These materials can support classes and research on topics including colonialism, race and photography, racism, visual anthropology, visual studies, history of the Philippines, and the United States and colonialism. Pedagogical goals from using these materials might include analysis of visual sources, comparing the way the photographs act on their own versus in the articles in which they were published, and the role of images in ideas about race and colonialism. 

These photographs were taken by Dean C. Worcester and featured in National Geographic articles. Worcester was a professor of zoology at the University of Michigan and a member of the United States colonial administration in the Philippines. Worcester’s photographs focus on rural areas of the Philippines, and showcase his support for colonialism and the U.S. project in the Philippines. The materials included in this collection were likely collected by Alvin Cox, an official in the Department of Agriculture who traveled to the Philippines in 1917. 

Packet contents:

  • List of primary sources
  • Guiding questions for engaging with the primary sources
  • Articles which provide background on this topic
    • Salvador-Amores, Analyn. “Afterlives of Dean C. Worcester’s Colonial Photographs: Visualizing Igorot Material Culture, from Archives to Anthropological Fieldwork in Northern Luzon.” Visual Anthropology 29, no. 1 (2016): 54–80.
    • Kramer, Paul A. “Dual Mandates: Collaboration and the Racial State” in The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. 
    • Rice, Mark. “Dean Worcester, National Geographic Magazine, and the Imagined Philippines” in Dean Worcester’s Fantasy Islands: Photography, Film, and the Colonial Philippines. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014. P. 80-117. 

Primary Sources

All photographs taken by Dean C. Worcester or his assistant Charles Martin. Titles/descriptions are from the back of the photographs.  

Materials from HC-MC 1189, Howard Haines Brinton and Anna Shipley Cox Brinton papers.

An Igorot family of the better class. From Lepanto

A typical Bontoc Igorat couple

A party of Mangyans at Bulalacao – Mindoro

A Bontoc Igorot. Peddler of Tapuy

A Bogobo Woman (Mindanao)

A Dance at Magoc in the Ifuago country                 

An Iwahig colonist, carrying his farm produce to market

Bontoc Igorot. Gongs with human jaw bones as handles

Prisoners in Bilibid making hemp rope

A Moro datu with his wife and retinue

Dean C. Worcester. “Head Hunters of the Northern Luzon.” National Geographic 23 no. 9 (September 1912).

Dean C. Worcester. “Field Sports Among the Wild Men of Northern Luzon.” National Geographic 22 no. 3 (March 1911). 

The list above is a sample of about 80 photographs in the collection. The full set of digitized materials is available in our digital repository.

Guiding Questions

  • What is the purpose of these photographs? What work are they doing?
  • How do these photographs fit into narratives about race and colonialism?
  • How do the titles and descriptions function in relation to the photographs? How might the photographs be read differently in their physical format, when the text is on the back, where the viewer cannot see text and image at the same time? 
  • Are there differences in the way the photos ask to be read on their own, versus in the issues of National Geographic?