Friday, May 7, 2010

On a Mission

I've been housekeeping - sorting through some of the  old photo albums I've inherited.  I've no idea who some of them belonged to, probably great-aunts or cousins long gone from this world.

Most of the photos are not labeled and I only recognize a very few people.  But one album contains pictures that must have been sent by Baptist missionaries in Manila around 1915 - next to photos of friends and neighbors on picnics, grannies rocking on porches and young men looking a bit like Clyde Barrow - or Warren Beatty.

It's a strange juxtaposition until I remember how fiercely devoted those aunts and grandmothers were to the missions.  My feelings can be described as ambivalent, at best.  But they set great store in their missionaries, recorded their names with pride, kept and shared the letters mailed home and treasured the photographs.

Today, to my modern and more than jaundiced eye the photographs seem manipulative and exploitative, but no more so, I suppose than those we see on the news - or YouTube.  So why are they so disturbing to me?  Freud would have a field day.

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