Charles le Roux’s task on the expedition was to photograph the everyday life and customs of the inhabitants of New Guinea. His photos showed people who, seen from Holland, lived on the other side of the world. They also showed people who, according to prevailing ideas, were living in a different phase of evolution: they were still in the Stone Age. In a sense, Le Roux’s camera was a time machine that allowed people back home to see how their own ancestors lived.
By Aeroplane to Pygmyland
In 1926, the Stirling expedition, named after American expedition leader Matthew Stirling, ventured into the interior of Netherlands New Guinea. For the first time, explorers used a plane - a seaplane. To record the expedition, they took a film camera as well as photo cameras, and a phonograph to record sound. A mobile radio station ensured that the expedition kept in touch with the outside world. The film fragments were made into a documentary for viewers in Europe: ‘By Aeroplane to Pygmyland’. Stirling had read in previous expedition reports that there were pygmies in the interior. Clips from the film are on permanent display in the Tropenmuseum.
Le Roux at the museum
The Tropenmuseum’s Netherlands East Indies presentation features a display based on this photo. A lifelike, life-size mannequin represents the photographer Le Roux. He is pointing his camera at an enlargement of his own photo. The presentation is about how people see others. Le Roux is looking through his camera at a group of Papuans. Visitors to the museum see Le Roux and the photo. For visitors, the question is how ways of regarding other people have changed.
9 x 12cm (3 9/16 x 4 3/4in.)