The Orient Deconstructed: Moulin's Female Portraits in Algeria, 1856-1858

The Orient Deconstructed: Moulin

Lecture by Raisa Rexer (Vanderbilt University)

In 1856, the Parisian photographer Félix Jacques-Antoine Moulin traveled to Algeria on a photographic mission sanctioned by the French Imperial government. Before he left, Moulin had already garnered a reputation as a prolific photographer of women, including nudes, portraits, and genre scenes. This talk will put his female portraits taken in North Africa with his earlier Orientalist nudes and genre scenes of women, arguing that the later photographs in Algeria reveal the degree to which his earlier photographs were the product of a cultural imaginary about the Orient that broke down in the face of the reality of North Africa. Instead, his portraits of Algerian women reveal a conflicting imperative to render the people of Algeria in visual terms that would allow them to be incorporated into a larger colonial French national identity.

Raisa Rexer is an Assistant Professor of French at Vanderbilt University whose research focuses on literature and the history of photography in nineteenth-century France. Her art criticism and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including art magazines, museum catalogs, and scholarly journals such as Yale French Studies, Dix-Neuf, Nineteenth-Century French Studies, and Romanic Review. Her first book, The Fallen Veil: A Literary and Cultural History of the Photographic Nude in Nineteenth-Century France, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2021. She is currently working on a dual biography of the nineteenth-century woman photographer Laure-Mathilde Gouin and her model Antonia tentatively entitled The Photographer and the Model: A Biography in Images.

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Published: Thursday, April 28, 2022