Muybridge’s Guatemalan Laundresses: Gender, Labor, and Aesthetics on a Coffee Plantation

Elizabeth Hutchinson

photo by Eadweard Muybridge

In 1875, the Anglo-American landscape photographer Eadweard Muybridge traveled to Central America as a guest of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. The trip resulted in an album of luxurious views that document the impact of U.S. involvement in the politics and economics of the region. In addition to producing picturesque views of the shady plantations in the Guatemalan highlands, Muybridge also turned his camera on the Mayan natives who worked there. Situating these pictures in the contexts of ethnographic photography and fine art from the 1870s, Elizabeth Hutchinson, assistant professor of art history at Barnard College, traces the overlapping discourses of gender, class, race, and empire that give them meaning.