Anatomy of a Scientific Photograph

This popular studio image was titled “Singing Girl” in a tourist album. “Singing Girl,” a common term for “geisha” in 19th-century Japan, displays the visual signs of her profession: elaborate dress, hairstyle, and a shamisen, a three-stringed, fretless, banjo-like instrument. Archived in the museum under “Japan,” and captioned by its collector as “A Good Type,” the image was generalized into a purported representation of typical female dress.

Explanation of singing girl image