Norway sent out more missionaries per capita than any other country in Europe. Over the years, the Norwegian missionaries published vast amounts of photographs, films and stories of "the poor heathen". Marianne Gullstads study of missonary images is now available for an international audience.
Picturing Pity is the first full length monograph on missionary photography. Empirically, it is based on an in-depth analysis of the published photographs taken by Norwegian evangelical missionaries in Northern Cameroon from the early nineteen twenties, at the beginning of their activities in this region, and until today.
Marianne Gullestad's main contention is that the need to continuously justify their activities to donors in Europe has led to the creation and maintenance of specific ways of portraying Africans. The missionary visual rhetoric is both based on earlier visualizations and has over time established its own conventions which can now also be traced within secular fields of activity such as international development agencies, foreign policy, human relief organizations and the mass media.
Picturing Pity takes part in the present "pictorial turn" in academic teaching and research, constituting visual images as an exciting site of conversation across disciplinary lines.