Edges of Empire

KNW 2399: Edges of Empire

Two Cities, One Market


In this photo taken by William Johnson and William Henderson, one sees nine men sitting on and around an enormous amount of cotton. The photo is taken at the Cotton Market in Bombay between 1855 and 1862. Although the men do not look lower class, they do not immediately seem to have money. Their clothes do not appear to be torn or dirty but the man in the bottom left of the photo does not look well nourished. These men sifting through the cotton show that cotton production was still booming in India. Even though at this time, cotton was being produced in other locations, India was still benefitting from the vast production of cotton. The nine men in the photo are all in typical Indian dress, wearing headpieces and white robes. The men do not appear to be happy or sad which begs the question; are they receiving any benefits from sorting and preparing this cotton? The image as a whole depicts a tradition that made India famous, their cotton production, but at what cost did it come to the laborers?

This photo taken by an unknown photographer in 1897 is set in Orizaba located in Veracruz-Llave in Mexico. The photo shows the market in Orizaba where all of the produce native to their lands, including squash, peppers, grains and a multitude of other items could be purchased. The photo depicts a wide variety of women and children as well as men in the background who seem to be upper class. The four women selling their produce in the foreground do not seem to be upper class but their clothes are not torn and they all look healthy. When one looks past the people in the photo there is a much larger market with lots of people buying and selling goods. The photo explains that Mexico was extremely populated at this time and there was supply and demand throughout the area. The building behind the market seems to be very nice with lavish lunettes above the doorways, showing that this could be one of the nicer neighborhoods in Orizaba. What is most interesting about this photo is the way the people interact with the camera, the four women in the fore ground are all aware of the camera and have turned to face in directly, while others are pointing and staring at it, making it seem as though this technology was extremely new to their lands. The entire photo depicts the atmosphere of a market, but the scene does not seem to be extremely chaotic, making it seem as though it was not an unruly affair.


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