This article examines the construction of respectability politics and ethnic identity in the visual archives of Frank Mancao, a Filipino labor contractor and photographer in California. By investigating Mancao's relationship with the male Filipino farmworkers he managed and photographed, it argues that ethnic photographers and migrant workers as photographic subjects turned to the camera as a means of constructing a respectability politics to refashion a denigrated masculine Filipino identity in the American West. It begins with an investigation of Mancao's photographic practice and moves into how his work as a studio photographer provided Filipino men—including Mancao himself—opportunities to represent themselves against the popular image of the Filipino vagrant and criminal. However, this study also suggests that the “Pinoy image” crafted around the camera was not a revolutionary one; instead, the photographs reified industriousness and participation in capitalist production as the merits of good citizenship.

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