The Camera and the Railway: Framing the Portuguese Empire and Technological Landscapes in Angola and Mozambique, 1880s–1910s
Starting in the 1880s, Portugal invested in constructing railways in its African colonies, Angola and Mozambique. The aim was both to solidify Portuguese presence in territories disputed by other imperial nations and to facilitate exploration of the resources that imperial policymakers assumed existed in the colonial hinterland. To promote the perception that Portugal was an imperial nation, hundreds of photographs recorded the construction, inauguration, and operation of these new railways. Using a semiotics approach, this article analyzes photographs from various sources in Portugal to show how they helped create a novel technological landscape, underscoring the domestication of the territory and the civilization of its inhabitants by European rule, thus promoting it as a land of opportunity for European settlers. This focus adds to the debate claiming that photography was a crucial tool of empire serving European colonialism and imperialism in Africa.