African Photographer J. A. Green

African Photographer J. A. Green

Reimagining the Indigenous and the Colonial
Edited by Martha G. Anderson and Lisa Aronson
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/26/2017
Format: Paperback 186 b&w and sepia illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-02895-2
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J. A. Green (1873–1905) was one of the most prolific and accomplished indigenous photographers to be active in West Africa. This beautiful book celebrates Green’s photographs and opens a new chapter in the early photographic history of Africa. Soon after photography reached the west coast of Africa in the 1840s, the technology and the resultant images were disseminated widely, appealing to African elites, European residents, and travelers to the region. Responding to the need for more photographs, expatriate and indigenous photographers began working along the coasts, particularly in major harbor towns. Green, whose identity remained hidden behind his English surname, maintained a photography business in Bonny along the Niger Delta. His work covered a wide range of themes including portraiture, scenes of daily and ritual life, commerce, and building. Martha G. Anderson, Lisa Aronson, and the contributors have uncovered 350 of Green’s images in archives, publications, and even albums that celebrated colonial achievements. This landmark book unifies these dispersed images and presents a history of the photographer and the area in which he worked.

Author Bio

Martha G. Anderson is Professor Emerita of the School of Art and Design at New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University.

Lisa Aronson is Emeritus Professor of the Department of Art History at Skidmore College.


“J. A. Green worked for colonials and locals in the Niger Delta circa 1891–1905. His images circulated regionally and internationally for 100 years, but his name and African identity had fallen into obscurity—until this beautifully illustrated and authoritative book. It thoroughly documents Green's photography, considers it through multiple frames of analysis, and challenges simplistic notions of a "colonial gaze."”
 — John Peffer, editor of Portraiture and Photography in Africa

“In the past fifteen or so years, African photography has taken shape as a subject of great interest to art historians of Africa and modern/contemporary art. . . . This book will enhance our understanding of photography in Africa and especially the earliest years of photographic practices on the continent.”
 — Joanna Grabski, author of Art World City

“Little is known about J. A. Green and much of his corpus of photographs and the priceless documentation Green kept on each photograph were lost when a family member tragically tossed it all in the trash. Martha G. Anderson and Lisa Aronson have . . . uncover[ed] not just the story of J. A. Green but, perhaps more importantly, an examination of the intersection of photography and the indigenous and colonial life in Nigeria at the turn of the twentieth century.”
 — Elisabeth L. Cameron, editor of Portraiture and Photography in Africa

“The pioneering role of J. A. (Jonathan Adagogo) Green’s photographic artistry is painstakingly resurrected and perceptively examined in this magisterial study, beautifully produced in large format by the Indiana University Press.”
 — Journal of Folklore Research

“"[Green] practiced for only 14 years but the legacy of pictorial history that he created has been given proper focus by the impeccable, collaborative research and interpretative conceptualism of this volume of essays and commentaries edited with guidance from Prof. Alagoa.”
 — The Guardian

“"The publication of the book in 2017 has effectively peeled the layer of anonymity from Mr. Green who’s work was published in leading publications across the world but who remained largely unknown for decades. . . This landmark book unifies these dispersed photographic images of Jonathan Adagogo Green and presents a history of the photographer and the area and times in which he worked."”
 — Premium Times

“Apart from bringing to light one of Africa’s underexposed photographers, this much-needed volume offers profoundly generative theoretical frameworks for considering the roles photography has played both on and off the continent in the colonial period and beyond.”
 — African Arts

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Table of Contents

A Note Regarding Captions
Part One: Green in Context
1. Picture of the Niger Delta / Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa
2. Early Photographers in Coastal Nigeria and the Afterlife of Their Images, 1860-1930 / Christraud M. Geary
Part Two: Green and His Oeuvre
3. Image Maker Jonathan Adagogo Green and his Practice / Lisa Aronson
4. J. A. Green’s Portraits: Picturing People in the Niger Delta / Lisa Aronson
Part Three: Viewing Green through Expatriate Eyes
5. Differing Views: Imperial Agendas and Personal Histories / Martha G. Anderson
6. Envisioning Africa: From Ethnographic Types to Picturesque Views / Martha G. Anderson
Part Four: The "Performative" Aspects of Green’s Photographs
7. Telling Histories: J. A. Green’s Photographs in Colonial Albums and Western Publications / Martha G. Anderson
8. Green’s Photos and the Visualizing and Reinventing of Ijo Histories / Lisa Aronson
9. J. A. Green: Pioneer and Legend / Tam Fiofori
Appendix: Timeline
Selected Bibliography

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