Posts Tagged ‘American photographers

08
Aug
17

Exhibition: ‘Walker Evans’ at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Exhibition dates: 26th April 2017 – 14th August 2017

Curator: Mnam/Cci, Clément Cheroux

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Stamped Tin Relic' 1929

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Stamped Tin Relic
1929
Gelatin silver print
23.3 x 28 cm
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Achat en 1996
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Centre Pompidou / Dist.RMN-GP

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Coney Island Beach' c. 1929

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Coney Island Beach
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print
22.5 x 31 cm
The J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

The un/ordinariness of ordinariness

What a pleasure.

I’ve never liked the term ‘”vernacular” photography’ because, for me, every time someone presses the shutter of the camera they have a purpose: to capture a scene, however accidental or incidental. That context may lie outside recognised networks of production and legitimation but it does not lie outside performance and ritual. As Catherine Lumby observes, what the promiscuous flow of the contemporary image culture opens up, “is an expanded and abstracted terrain of becoming…. whereby images exceed, incorporate or reverse the values that are presumed to reside within them in a patriarchal social order.”1 Pace Evans.

His art of an alternate order, his vision of a terrain of becoming is so particular, so different it has entered the lexicon of America culture.

Marcus

Walker Evans: “The passionate quest to identify the fundamental features of American vernacular culture… the term “vernacular” designates those popular or informal forms of expression used by ordinary people for everyday purposes – essentially meaning all that falls outside art, outside the recognised networks of production and legitimation, and which in the US thus serves to define a specifically American culture. It is all the little details of the everyday environment that make for “Americanness”: wooden roadside shacks, the way a shopkeeper lays out his wares in the window, the silhouette of the Ford Model T, the pseudo-cursive typography of Coca-Cola signs. It is a crucial notion for the understanding of American culture.” (Text from press release)

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Many thankx to the Centre Pompidou for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

1. Lumby, Catharine. “Nothing Personal: Sex, Gender and Identity in The Media Age,” in Matthews, Jill (ed.,). Sex in Public: Australian Sexual Cultures. St. Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1997, pp. 14-15.

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Truck and Sign' 1928-1930

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Truck and Sign
1928-1930
Gelatin silver print
16.5 x 22.2 cm
Collection particulière, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Fernando Maquieira, Cromotex

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'New York City Street Corner' 1929

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
New York City Street Corner
1929
Gelatin silver print
18.4 x 12.7 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Self-Portrait in Automated Photobooth' 1930

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Self-Portrait in Automated Photobooth
1930
Gelatin silver print
18.3 x 3.8 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist-RMN-GP/Image of the MMA

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Self-Portrait in Automated Photobooth' 1930 (detail)

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Self-Portrait in Automated Photobooth' 1930 (detail)

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Self-Portrait in Automated Photobooth (details)
1930
Gelatin silver print
18.3 x 3.8 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist-RMN-GP/Image of the MMA

 

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) was one of the most important of twentieth-century American photographers. His photographs of the Depression years of the 1930s, his assignments for Fortune magazine in the 1940s and 1950s, and his “documentary style” influenced generations of photographers and artists. His attention to everyday details and the commonplace urban scene did much to define the visual image of 20th-century American culture. Some of his photographs have become iconic.

Conceived as a retrospective of Evans’s work as a whole, the Centre Pompidou exhibition presents three hundred vintage prints in a novel and revelatory thematic organisation. It highlights the photographer’s recurrent concern with roadside buildings, window displays, signs, typography and faces, offering an opportunity to grasp what no doubt lies at the heart of Walker Evans’ work: the passionate quest to identify the fundamental features of American vernacular culture. In an interview of 1971, he explained the attraction as follows: “You don’t want your work to spring from art; you want it to commence from life, and that’s in the street now. I’m no longer comfortable in a museum. I don’t want to go to them, don’t want to be ‘taught’ anything, don’t want to see ‘accomplished’ art. I’m interested in what’s called vernacular. For example, finished, I mean educated, architecture doesn’t interest me, but I love to find American vernacular”.

In the English-speaking countries, and in America more notably, the term “vernacular” designates those popular or informal forms of expression used by ordinary people for everyday purposes – essentially meaning all that falls outside art, outside the recognised networks of production and legitimation, and which in the US thus serves to define a specifically American culture. It is all the little details of the everyday environment that make for “Americanness”: wooden roadside shacks, the way a shopkeeper lays out his wares in the window, the silhouette of the Ford Model T, the pseudo-cursive typography of Coca-Cola signs. It is a crucial notion for the understanding of American culture. It is to be found in the literature as early as the 19th century, but it is only in the late 1920s that it is first deployed in a systematic study of architecture. Its importance in American art would be theorised in the 1940s, by John Atlee Kouwenhoven, a professor of English with a particular interest in American studies who was close to Walker Evans himself.

After an introductory section that looks at Evans’s modernist beginnings, the exhibition introduces the subjects that would fascinate him throughout his career: the typography of signs, the composition of window displays, the frontages of little roadside businesses, and so on. It then goes on to show how Evans himself adopted the methods or visual forms of vernacular photography in becoming, for the time of an assignment, an architectural photographer, a catalogue photographer, an ambulant portrait photographer, while all the time explicitly maintaining the standpoint of an artist.

This exhibition is the first major museum retrospective of Evans’s work in France. Unprecedented in its ambition, it retraces the whole of his career, from his earliest photographs in the 1920s to the Polaroids of the 1970s, through more than 300 vintage prints drawn from the most important American institutions (among them the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.) and also more than a dozen private collections. It also features a hundred or so other exhibits drawn from the post cards, enamel signs, print images and other graphic ephemera that Evans collected his whole life long.

Press release from the Centre Pompidou

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Westchester, New York, farmhouse' 1931

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Westchester, New York, farmhouse
1931
Gelatin silver print pasted on cardboard
18 x 22.1 cm
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
© W. Evans Arch., The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Centre Pompidou / Dist. RMN-GP

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Main Street, Saratoga Springs, New York' 1931

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Main Street, Saratoga Springs, New York
1931
Gelatin silver print
18.73 x 16.19 cm
Collection particulière, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Fernando Maquieira, Cromotex

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'License Photo Studio, New York' 1934

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
License Photo Studio, New York
1934
Gelatin silver print
27.9 x 21.6 cm (image: 18.3 x 14.4 cm)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Penny Picture Display, Savannah' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Penny Picture Display, Savannah
1936
Gelatin silver print
21,9 x 17,6 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York Gift of Willard Van Dyke
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © 2016. Digital Image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Joe's Auto Graveyard' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Joe’s Auto Graveyard
1936
Gelatin silver print
11.43 x 18.73 cm
Collection particulière, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Ian Reeves

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Houses and Billboards in Atlanta' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Houses and Billboards in Atlanta
1936
Gelatin silver print
16.5 x 23.2 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © 2016. Digital Image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence

 

 

Curator’s point of view

“You don’t want your work to spring from art; you want it to commence from life, and that’s in the street now. I’m no longer comfortable in a museum. I don’t want to go to them, don’t want to be ‘taught’ anything, don’t want to see ‘accomplished’ art. I’m interested in what’s called vernacular.”

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Walker Evans, interviewed by Leslie Katz (1971)

 

 

Through more than 400 photographs and documents, this retrospective of the work of Walker Evans (1903-1975) explores the American photographer’s fascination with his country’s vernacular culture. Evans was one of the most important of twentieth-century American photographers. His photographs of the Depression years of the 1930s, his “documentary style” and his interest in American popular culture influenced generations of photographers and artists. Bringing together the best examples of his work, drawn from the most important private and public collections, the exhibition also accords a large place to the artefacts that Evans himself collected throughout his life, to offer a fresh approach to the work of one of the most significant figures in the history of photography.

Study of his images – from the very first photographs of the 1920s to the Polaroids of his last years – reveals a fascination with the utilitarian, the domestic and the local. This interest in popular forms and practices emerged very early, when he started to collect postcards as a teenager. More than ten thousand items he had gathered by the time of his death are now held by the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Other everyday objects from his personal collection – enamel signs, handbills and adverts – are exhibited here.

Walker Evans’s attraction to the vernacular finds expression, above all, in his choice of subjects: Victorian architecture, roadside buildings, shopfronts, cinema posters, placards, signs, etc. His pictures also feature the faces and bodies of ordinary people, whether victims of the Depression or anonymous passers-by. Something else “typically American” was the underside of progress. During the 1930s in particular, the American landscape was strewn with ruin and waste. Evans kept an eye on them ever after. Industrial waste, building debris, automobile carcases, wooden houses in ruins, Louisiana mansions fallen in the world, antiques, garbage, faded interiors, bare patches in exterior render: these were the other face of America. Just as much as the towering skyscraper or the gleaming motor car, all this was an element of the modern. This concern with decline and obsolescence gave the photographer a critical edge and reveals a profound fascination with the mechanisms of overproduction and consumption characteristic of the age.

Evans didn’t just collect the forms of the vernacular, he also borrowed its methods. In many of his images, he adopts the codes of applied photography: the shots in series, the frontality, the apparent objectivity. Waiting, camera in hand on the corner of the street or in the subway, he accumulated portraits of city-dwellers by the dozen, releasing his shutter with the mechanical regularity of a photo booth. Working like a post-card photographer or architectural photographer, Evans built up, in surprisingly systematic fashion, a catalogue of churches, doors, monuments and small-town main streets. Sculptures, wrought-iron chairs, household tools: all seem to have been selected for their unique qualities as objects. The repetitivity, the apparent objectivity and the absence of emphasis in these images are typical of commercial photographs produced to order. In 1935, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, asked Evans to photograph the six hundred sculptures of the exhibition of “African Negro Art”. The method he adopted was that of the catalogue photographer, rigorously avoiding dramatic effects by eliminating shadow; tightly framed and set against a neutral background, the pieces find a new elegance. The photographer would often have recourse to this regime in the years that followed, notably for a portfolio entitled “Beauties of the Common Tool”, published in Fortune magazine in July 1955. This adoption of the forms and procedures of non-artistic photography even as Evans laid claim to art prefigures –  some decades in advance! – the practices of the conceptual artists of the 1960s.

Clément Chéroux
Julie Jones
in Code Couleur, No. 28, May – August 2017, pp. 14-17

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Shoeshine Stand Detail in Southern Town' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Shoeshine Stand Detail in Southern Town
1936
Gelatin silver print
14.5 x 17cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Anonymous Gift
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist-RMN-GP/Image of the MMA

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Negroes' Church, South Carolina' March 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Negroes’ Church, South Carolina
March 1936, circulation April 1969
Gelatin silver print
25.2 x 20.2 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa Acheté en 1969
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada, Ottawa

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Alabama Tenant Farmer Floyd Bourroughs' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Alabama Tenant Farmer Floyd Bourroughs
1936
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 18.4 cm
Collection particulière, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Fernando Maquieira, Cromotex

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Allie Mae Burroughs, Wife of a Cotton Sharecropper, Hale Country, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Allie Mae Burroughs, Wife of a Cotton Sharecropper, Hale Country, Alabama
1936
Gelatin silver print
22.3 x 17.3 cm
Collection particulière
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Collection particulière

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Subway Portrait' January 1941

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
January 1941
Gelatin silver print
20.9 x 19.1 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, in Honour of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Resort Photographer at Work' 1941

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Resort Photographer at Work
1941
Gelatin silver print, later print
15.9 x 22.4 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Anna Maria, Florida' October 1958

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Anna Maria, Florida
October 1958
Oil on fiberboard
40 × 50.2 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Walker Evans Archive, 1994
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image of the MMA

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Untitled, Detroit' 1946

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Untitled, Detroit
1946
Gelatin silver print
16 x 11.4 cm
Fondation A.Stichting, Bruxelles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Fondation A.Stichting, Bruxelles

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Tin Snips by J. Wiss and Sons Co., $1.85' 1955

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Tin Snips by J. Wiss and Sons Co., $1.85
1955
Gelatin silver print
25.2 x 20.3 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Centre Pompidou 
75191 Paris cedex 04
Tel: 00 33 (0)1 44 78 12 33

Opening hours:
Exhibition open every day from 11 am – 9 pm except on Tuesday
Closed on May 1st

Centre Pompidou website

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30
Aug
16

Exhibition: ‘An Anonymous Art: American Snapshots from the Peter J. Cohen Gift’ at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Exhibition dates: 15th April – 4th September 2016

 

Dis/membering the snapshot

To say that I dislike the term “snapshot” is an understatement. The term snap/shot implies a lack of consideration in the physical act of taking the photograph. In a snap it was shot – like a snap of the fingers or a bolt out of the blue. But if we think about the photographs in this posting … and we then think about the photographs of Henri Lartigue, or Robert Frank and his travels across 1950s America, I would argue that the only difference between Lartigue, Frank and the former “Unknown makers” is that they were embarked upon a photographic project, and, latterly, were decreed artists.

I believe, and I have always believed, that the taking of photographs is a matter of intention on the part of the photographer.

If you look at these photographs from Unknown makers was it their intention to take this photograph, did they think about what they were doing before they pressed the shutter. And the answer is unequivocally, yes they did. Their aim, their purpose, was that they had the intention to take the photograph they did, they determined of their own free will how to frame these photos and at what split second to press the shutter so as to suit their aim, their thought about what they wanted to capture in the image. This is not a “snap” shot in contemporary parlance, but a considered action and intention.

To say, as Keith F. Davis, Senior Curator, Photography does in the press release, that “Snapshots represent a collective visual unconsciousness of 20th-century American culture,” could not be farther from the truth. They may represent a form of collective subconscious, where these images hover in collective memories and dreams waiting to be visualised, but a collective visual unconsciousness? I don’t think so. Vernacular photography is about a conscious decision to take a photograph and, at its most poignant, it is about a collective movement that emerges from the subconscious of people all the way around the world – in order (a taxonomic state) to document the world around them.

The joy of the women on the bed, the man and women in the cornfield, the couple in love with the Christmas tree, the man riding the bucking horse bareback, even the close-up of child’s mouth – all of the photographs were taken with an inquiring mind, with an intention to look and see, to feel the memory of that event, that time and space – not as a snap/shot but as an expression of (everlasting) life.

“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.

William Blake

Marcus

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Many thankx to the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Unknown maker, American. 'Woman with drink on bed' 1950s

 

Unknown maker (American)
Woman with drink on bed
1950s
Gelatin silver print
3 1/8 x 4 inches
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American). 'Group at pond' c. 1910s

 

Unknown maker (American)
Group at pond
c. 1910s
Gelatin silver print
3 × 4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American). 'Man and woman in corn' c. 1930s

 

Unknown maker (American)
Man and woman in corn
c. 1930s
Gelatin silver print
3 × 4 1/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American). 'Couple with Christmas tree' c 1940s

 

Unknown maker (American)
Couple with Christmas tree
c. 1940s
Gelatin silver print
3 × 3 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American). 'Close-up of child's mouth' 1956

 

Unknown maker (American)
Close-up of child’s mouth
1956
Gelatin silver print
3 × 3 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American). 'Superman with dumbbell' 1972

 

Unknown maker (American)
Superman with dumbbell
1972
Ektacolor print
3 1/8 × 3 1/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

 

When photography was introduced in 1839, the making of even a single picture was difficult and painstaking. The medium was transformed in the 1880s with the introduction of easier processes and the simple Kodak camera. Amateur photography was born: images became casual and spontaneous, and they were called “snapshots.”

Amateur snapshots are highlighted in An Anonymous Art: American Snapshots from the Peter J. Cohen Gift, which opens at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City April 15. The Chicago-born Cohen, an investment manager who now lives in New York, bought his first snapshots at a flea market in 1991. Within 20 years he had amassed more than 50,000 of them, and has given away as many as 12,000 snapshots. Cohen gifted the Nelson-Atkins with 350 photos.

“This incredible exhibition of amateur snapshots depicts broadly shared aspects of everyday life,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO and Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “It highlights the deep cultural importance of photography, a visual tradition that flourishes today in images that are made and shared in a variety of ways.”

There are snapshots of pets, baseball games, Christmas trees, amateur plays, vacation fun – and even subjects snapping themselves in mirrors, which could be considered the original selfies.

“The large themes of this exhibition have tremendous continuity,” said Keith F. Davis, Senior Curator, Photography. “Snapshots represent a collective visual unconsciousness of 20th-century American culture – a connection to basic human concerns that is both direct and mysterious.”

Each of the 238 snapshots in An Anonymous Art was hand-selected by Davis himself from an extensive survey of the Cohen collection. The exhibition suggests the medium’s profound social importance as well as its quirky and surprising nature. It features groupings of works illustrating key visual traits and cultural motifs, ranging from accidental multiple exposures to comic and play-acting images. An Anonymous Art runs through Sept 4.

Press release from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Unknown maker (American). Flying bi-plane' c. 1920s

 

Unknown maker (American)
Flying bi-plane
c. 1920s
Gelatin silver print
5 3/8 × 3 3/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American). 'Whoa!' 1928

 

Unknown maker (American)
Whoa!
1928
Gelatin silver print
3 3/16 × 2 1/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American) 'Dog being held by neck' c. 1940

 

Unknown maker (American)
Dog being held by neck
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
3 1/2 × 2 1/2 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American) 'Allen and Gladys' c. 1930s

 

Unknown maker (American)
Allen and Gladys
c. 1930s
Gelatin silver print
3 1/8 × 2 1/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American) 'Boy with bat' c. 1950s

 

Unknown maker (American)
Boy with bat
c. 1950s
Gelatin silver print
3 × 3 1/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Unknown maker (American) 'Doris' 1949

 

Unknown maker (American)
Doris
1949
Gelatin silver print
3 1/8 × 2 1/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

Opening hours:
Wed, 10 am – 5 pm
Thurs, Fri, 10 am – 9 pm
Sat, 10 am – 5 pm
Sun, 10 am – 5 pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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17
Jul
16

Exhibition: ‘Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 7th March – 31st July 2016

 

One wrong does not a life make

A very large posting on a fascinating subject, for an exhibition that examines “the numerous ways that photography has influenced that favorite human activity, speculating about crimes and the people who commit them.” As the press release notes, “Since the earliest days of the medium, photographs have been used for criminal investigation and evidence gathering, to record crime scenes, to identify suspects and abet their capture, and to report events to the public. This exhibition explores the multifaceted intersections between photography and crime…” And all this history displayed in just two gallery spaces!

Of course, what the press release fails to note is that it is often the very people in power (the police, judiciary, and even the photographer) who name and shame those whose likenesses are captured by the camera. In other words, the people in these photographs are already labelled – deviant, lifter, wife poisoner, forger, sneak thief; cracksman, pickpocket, burglar, highwayman; murderer, counterfeiter, abortionist – before their photograph is ever taken. They have already been dressed for the part. This verdict is further reinforced when images, such as those by Weggee, appear in newspapers and, using Walker Evans phrase, the “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury” confirm what has been fed to them. As noted in the text in the posting about the photographs of Samuel G. Szabó, “Would the serious young man in the overcoat and silk top hat appear roguish without the caption “John McNauth alias Keely alias little hucks / Pick Pocket” below his portrait?” I think not (which is what the viewer does when confronted with the veracity of the photograph and the text supplied by those in a position of power)… therefore I am.

What strikes me about the “mugshot” photographs of Samuel G. Szabó and Alphonse Bertillon is the ordinariness of the people he captured – tailor, printer, accountant, photographer, seamstress – and how they have forever been labelled “anarchists”. Nothing is known of the rest of their lives and a search on the internet reveals nothing about them, except those people indelibly printed onto the fabric of history: Ravachol, murderer and anarchist who was bent on improving the conditions of the poor (no name or age under his photograph); and Félix Fénéon – head and eyes directed away from the camera whereas most others stare straight into the camera (upon direction) – all haughty superiority, as though the process of being photographed as an “anarchist” was beneath the witty critique (no name or age under his photograph as well). Only by this is it recorded that they are morally suspicious and this is done at the behest of the authorities. Whatever else they did in their life counts as if for nothing.

What also strikes me about the “en situ” photographs of the habitats of the murdered victims and the places where they were found, is again the mundanity of the interiors and places of execution. In the photographs that document the Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 we note the ephemera of human existence – the photographs standing on three-tiered wooden shelves, the open box on the table, the body on the floor – photographed from both directions, once with the camera pointing towards the windows, the other from 180 degrees, with the camera pointing into the room. And then we notice the mantlepiece photographed from another direction, with the open box on the table. And the bound and gagged man on the floor is still on the floor out of frame. And then another place of murder, that of the ending of a life, marked out in Bertillon’s photograph “Place where the corpse was found” by two pieces of wood laying on the ground and two pieces of wood propped at 45 degrees against the wall. As though this is all that is left of the existence of Mademoiselle Mercier along a street (Rue de l’Yvette) that still exists in Paris to this day … a photograph of pieces of wood and an empty space. Pace HEAD by Weggee.

It’s all about the stories, or the lack of them, that these photographs tell/sell. Weggee’s photographs of a sixteen-year old child killer, Frank Pape, are brutal in their exposure of this adolescent man. The way the horizontal negative has been cropped over and over again, to gain best effect, best value for the tabloid dollar, gives an idea of the pejorative pronunciation of guilt upon this individual before trial. What happened to Frank Pape? I’ve been digging, trying to find out… but nothing. Did he live, was he executed? What led him to that point and what happened to the rest of his life? This is the great unknown after the click of the shutter, the key in the lock, the silence of history. Here I am not advocating for the celebrity of the criminal, as in Richard Avedon’s photographs of the murderer Dick Hickock, but an acknowledgement that one wrong does not a life make.

But then again, for the victim, in shootings like that of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy – the pain of the photograph and the look in his eyes says it all. Here he is a victim, twice over (the victim of the assassin and the camera), and is to remain a victim for eternity, as long as people look at this photograph. This is such a sad and painful photograph. I remember the day it happened. I was ten years old at the time, and it’s one of those events that you will always remember the rest of you life, where you were, who you were with – like the moon landings or 9/11. I was in a car outside a small shop and the news came on the radio. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot – first aural, then visual on the black and white tv that night, then textual in the newspapers and then visual again with this photograph. The pain of the loss of those heady days of hope lessen not. Today we live in a police state where surveillance and recognition are everything, where those in power seek to control and regulate ever more the freedom of the people, and the people are lost to anonymity and time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,046

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Many thankx to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play,” an exhibit currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, proposes to examine the numerous ways that photography has influenced that favorite human activity, speculating about crimes and the people who commit them. This would be an ambitious undertaking for a ten-room show; this one is limited to only two. The result is something of a hodgepodge, hemmed in by a vague set of constraints. The bulk of the photos were taken in the United States between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, none after the seventies, and all are in black and white, as if to emphasize their historical remove from our own filtered times. But the aesthetic and ethical questions the exhibit raises – about the American attraction to criminal glamour, and our queasy, not always critical fascination with looking at violence – are the right ones to ask during the current vogue for “true crime,” that funny phrase we use for stories told in public about terrible things others suffer privately.

.
Alexandra Schwartz. “The Long Collusion of Photography and Crime,” on The New Yorker website

 

 

“Since the earliest days of the medium, photographs have been used for criminal investigation and evidence gathering, to record crime scenes, to identify suspects and abet their capture, and to report events to the public. This exhibition explores the multifaceted intersections between photography and crime, from 19th-century “rogues’ galleries” to work by contemporary artists inspired by criminal transgression. The installation will feature some 70 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, ranging from the 1850s to the present.

Among the highlights of the installation is Alexander Gardner’s documentation of the events following the assassination of President Lincoln, as well as rare forensic photographs by Alphonse Bertillon, the French criminologist who created the system of criminal identification that gave rise to the modern mug shot. Also on display is a vivid selection of vintage news photographs related to cases both obscure and notorious, such as a study of John Dillinger’s feet in a Chicago morgue in 1934; Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963; and Patty Hearst captured by bank surveillance cameras in 1974. In addition to exploring photography’s evidentiary uses, the exhibition will feature work by artists who have drawn inspiration from the criminal underworld, including Richard Avedon, Larry Clark, Walker Evans, John Gutmann, Andy Warhol, and Weegee.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

Unknown (American) '[John Dillinger's Feet, Chicago Morgue]' 1934

 

Unknown (American)
[John Dillinger’s Feet, Chicago Morgue]
1934
Gelatin silver print
4 11/16 x 7 13/16 in. (11.9 x 19.8 cm)
Purchase, The Marks Family Foundation Gift, 2001
© Bettmann / CORBIS

 

 

This press photo of John Dillinger, the celebrity gangster from Chicago shot down at age 31, morbidly embodies the twentieth-century’s obsession with fame and hunger for physical contact with media personae. As the Depression era’s most successful bank robber, Dillinger had become a folk hero for his brash, cocky manner and disregard for authority. This unflinching view of Dillinger laid out on a slab in the Chicago morgue not only bares the facts but ironically recalls Mantegna’s The Lamentation Over the Dead Christ (c. 1490).

 

 

Unknown (American) [Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department] 1936

 

Unknown (American)
[Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department]
1936
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 5 15/16 × 9 1/8 in. (15.1 × 23.1 cm) Sheet: 6 1/8 × 9 5/16 in. (15.6 × 23.6 cm)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2014

 

Unknown (American) [Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department] 1936

 

Unknown (American)
[Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department]
1936
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 5 15/16 × 9 1/8 in. (15.1 × 23.1 cm) Sheet: 6 1/8 × 9 5/16 in. (15.6 × 23.6 cm)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2014

 

 

The Chicago Police Department likely made these discarded file photographs when arrested suspects entered the precinct for booking. Each is accompanied by a typewritten caption recording the subjects’ names, vital statistics, and, in some cases, the crimes for which they were arrested (carrying concealed weapons, assault and robbery at gunpoint). With their subjects lined up theatrically against a dark velvet curtain, the images vividly evoke an era and milieu familiar to fans of film noir and hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1930s and 1940s.

A similar defiant dignity is evident in two booking photographs taken by the Chicago Police Department, part of a series made between 1936 and 1946. In the first, four black men in suits line up in front of what seems to be a theatre curtain. In the second, they strike the same pose, now in longer coats and with hats, as if auditioning for different parts in the same play. One of the men smiles affably, a flash of personality in a process meant to cloak it. The others look out evenly, returning the camera’s gaze and reminding whoever is behind the shutter that they, too, have the power to see.

 

Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut) '[Subway Passengers, New York City]' 1938

 

Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903 – 1975 New Haven, Connecticut)
[Subway Passengers, New York City]
1938
Gelatin silver print
12.2 x 15.0 cm (4 13/16 x 5 15/16 in.)
Gift of Arnold H. Crane, 1971
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Evans called his unwitting subjects. In this example, a smirking, vaguely menacing young man is engrossed in his copy of the Daily News. PAL TELLS HOW GUNGIRL KILLS, reads the headline. An obese woman, obviously not an acquaintance, sits miserably beside him.

During the winter months between 1938 and 1941, Evans strapped a camera to his midsection, cloaked it with his overcoat, and snaked a cable release down his suit sleeve to photograph New York City subway passengers unawares. In his book of these unposed portraits, Many Are Called (1966), the artist referred to his quarry as “the ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” What he was after stylistically, though, was more in keeping with the criminal mug shot: frontal and without emotional inflection. In this photograph, the tabloid headline “PAL TELLS HOW GUNGIRL KILLED” across the newspaper nods to Evans’s interest in vernacular source material.

Inspired by the incisive realism of Honoré Daumier’s Third-Class Carriage, Walker Evans sought to avoid the vanity, sentimentality, and artifice of conventional studio portraiture. The subway series, he later said, was “my idea of what a portrait ought to be: anonymous and documentary and a straightforward picture of mankind.”

 

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) 'A Bunch of Cops' 1940s

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
A Bunch of Cops
1940s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Bruce A. Kirstein, in memory of Marc S. Kirstein, 1978
© Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 - 2004 San Antonio, Texas) 'Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas' April 1960

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 – 2004 San Antonio, Texas)
Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas
April 1960
Gelatin silver print
Image: 50.8 x 50.8 cm (20 x 20 in.)
Frame: 59.7 x 59.7 cm (23 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.)
Gift of the artist, 2002
© Richard Avedon

 

 

In April 1960 Avedon traveled to Garden City, Kansas, to photograph the individuals connected with the savage murder of the four-member Clutter family in their remote farmhouse. He came at the request of his friend Truman Capote, who was there gathering material for his groundbreaking true-crime novel In Cold Blood (1966). Working with a handheld Rolleiflex camera, Avedon made this striking photograph of one of the killers, Richard “Dick” Hickcock, while he was in jail awaiting trial. The mug shot-like portrait captures Hickock’s sullen, lopsided face with mesmerizing clarity, as if searching for physiognomic clues to his criminal pathology.

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“One of the show’s most striking pictures is a Richard Avedon portrait of Dick Hickock, one of the two murderers immortalized in Truman Capote’s true-crime touchstone “In Cold Blood.” Hickock and Perry Smith, both ex-convicts out on parole, had set out to rob the home of Herbert Clutter, a farmer in Holcomb, Kansas; when they didn’t find the safe they’d been looking for, they killed Clutter, his wife, and his two children. Looking at Hickock’s mug shot, Capote writes, the wife of the case’s investigator is reminded “of a bobcat she’d once seen caught in a trap, and of how, though she’d wanted to release it, the cat’s eyes, radiant with pain and hatred, had drained her of pity and filled her with terror.” Here, Hickock gets the soft-focus celebrity treatment, the line between notoriety and fame as blurred as ever. Hickock, according to Capote, had always been self-conscious about his long, lopsided face. His nose juts out at a Picasso angle, and while his right eye meets Avedon’s lens straight on, his smaller left one seems to look inward. The result is a double portrait, part persona, part awkward, vulnerable self, both haunted by Capote’s own verbal portrait of Hickock’s victims, the Clutter family, at their funeral: “The head of each was completely encased in cotton, a swollen cocoon twice the size of an ordinary blown-up balloon, and the cotton, because it had been sprayed with a glossy substance, twinkled like Christmas-tree snow.”

Alexandra Schwartz. “The Long Collusion of Photography and Crime,” on The New Yorker website April 9 2016 [Online] Cited 15/07/2016

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 - 2004 San Antonio, Texas) 'Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas' April 1960

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 – 2004 San Antonio, Texas)
Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas
April 1960
Gelatin silver print
Image: 50.8 x 50.8 cm (20 x 20 in.)
Frame: 59.7 x 59.7 cm (23 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.)
Gift of the artist, 2002
© Richard Avedon

 

 

“Richard Avedon is represented by his 1960 portrait of Dick Hickock, the Kansas murderer who was one of the subjects of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. In his typical style, Avedon presents a large-scale investigation of Hickock’s face: the black greased pompadour combed just so, the slightly fleshy nose, the disturbingly engaging eyes, all of it ever so slightly skewed by the impression of Hickock’s inscrutable lopsided grievance. (Hickock had suffered a brain injury in an automobile accident when he was nineteen.) As with Gardner’s 1865 portrait of Lewis Powell (who was also executed by hanging for his crime), you sense how seriously Hickock takes being photographed, his wish to give something of himself, to influence, if not control, the emanations of his image and how he is being portrayed.”

Michael Greenberg. “Caught in the Act,” on The New York Review of Books website, April 7, 2016 [Online] Cited 22/06/2016

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, born 1934) 'FATAL BULLET HITS OSWALD. Jack Ruby fires bullet point blank into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald at Dallas Police Station. Oswald grimaces in agony' November 24, 1963

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, born 1934)
FATAL BULLET HITS OSWALD. Jack Ruby fires bullet point blank into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald at Dallas Police Station. Oswald grimaces in agony
November 24, 1963
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.8 x 19.5 cm (6 5/8 x 7 11/16 in.) Sheet: 20.5 x 20.1 cm (8 1/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2011

 

 

Before today’s fast-paced twenty-four hour news cycle, an eager American public followed the development of criminal investigations through the gray tones of press photographs. News outlets used a wire service to send images via in-house or portable transmitters, converting black-and-white tones into electrical pulses that were instantaneously received and printed using the same technology. Mundane courtroom proceedings, such as arraignments and evidence display, became newsworthy through the immediacy of reportage. Every small detail was devoured by a public impatient for news about notorious bank robbers and murderers – some of whom, like John Dillinger, were elevated to the status of folk heroes. In other instances, such as the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, newspapers and television brought the drama and intensity of firsthand observation into people’s homes.

 

Boris Yaro/Los Angeles Times. 'The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy' 1968

 

Boris Yaro (American, born 1938)
LOS ANGELES. KENNEDY MOMENTS AFTER SHOOTING. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Lies Gravely Wounded on the floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after midnight today, moments after he was shot during a celebration of his victory in yesterday’s California primary election
June 5, 1968
Gelatin silver print
17.2 x 21.1 cm (6 3/4 x 8 5/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2010

 

 

June 5, 1968: “Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy lies on the floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after he was shot in the head. He had just finished his victory speech upon winning the California primary. Times photographer Boris Yaro was standing 3 feet from Kennedy when the shooting began. “The gunman started firing at point-blank range. Sen. Kennedy didn’t have a chance,” Yaro recounted in a June 6, 1968, story for The Times. The Democratic senator, 42, was alive for more than 24 hours and was declared dead on the morning of June 6. The shooter was later identified as Sirhan B. Sirhan, who was found guilty of Kennedy’s assassination on April 17, 1969. His motives remain a mystery and controversy to this day.”

1964 Pulitzer Prize, Photography, Robert Jackson, Dallas Times Herald November 22, 1963

 

Andy Warhol (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1928 - 1987 New York) 'Electric Chair' 1971

 

Andy Warhol (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1928 – 1987 New York)
Electric Chair
1971
Printer: Silkprint Kettner, Zurich
Publisher: Bruno Bischofberger
Portfolio of ten screenprints
35 1/2 x 48 inches (90.2 x 121.9 cm)
Gift of Robert Meltzer, 1972

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Murder of Madame Veuve Bol, Projection on a Vertical Plane (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

1st November 1902. Assassination of Mademoiselle Mercier, Rue de l’Yvette á Bouvry la Reine. Photograph of the corpse.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Place where the corpse was found (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

House of the victim (and detail)

 

Attributed to Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]
1901-8
Gelatin silver prints
Overall: 24.3 x 31cm (9 9/16 x 12 3/16in.)
Page: 23 x 29 cm (9 1/16 x 11 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2001

 

 

Alphonse Bertillon, the chief of criminal identification for the Paris police department, developed the mug shot format and other photographic procedures used by police to register criminals. Although the images in this extraordinary album of forensic photographs were made by or under the direction of Bertillon, it was probably assembled by a private investigator or secretary who worked at the Paris prefecture. Photographs of the pale bodies of murder victims are assembled with views of the rooms where the murders took place, close-ups of objects that served as clues, and mug shots of criminals and suspects. Made as part of an archive rather than as art, these postmortem portraits, recorded in the deadpan style of a police report, nonetheless retain an unsettling potency.

 

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

 

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 – 61)
Rogues, a Study of Characters
c. 1860
Salted paper prints from glass negatives
From 8.8 x 6.6 cm (3 7/16 x 2 5/8 in.) to 11.5 x 8.8 cm (4 1/2 x 3 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Lifter, wife poisoner, forger, sneak thief; cracksman, pickpocket, burglar, highwayman; murderer, counterfeiter, abortionist – each found a place in this gallery of rogues. Photography was first put to service for the identification and apprehension of criminals in the late 1850s. In New York, for example, 450 photographs of known criminals could be viewed by the public in a real rogues’ gallery at police headquarters, the portraits arranged by category, such as “Leading pickpockets, who work one, two, or three together, and are mostly English.”

Little is known of Samuel G. Szabó, his methods or his intentions. He appears to have left his native Hungary in the early or mid-1850s by necessity, but the reason for his exile remains a mystery.

In the United States Szabó moved frequently. Between May 1857 and his return to Europe in July 1861 he traveled to New Orleans, Cincinnati, Chicago, Saint Louis, Philadelphia, and New York, settling for a brief period in Baltimore, where he was listed in the city directory as a daguerreotypist. His whereabouts when he made this album are unknown. One may speculate that Szabó made these portraits while working for, or with the cooperation of, the police, and some of the 218 prints in the album appear to be copy prints made from other photographic portraits.

But this is more than a collection of mug shots; it is a study of characters by a “photogr[aphic] artist,” as Szabó signed the title page of this album. Just as Mathew Brady believed that portraits of America’s great men and women held clues to the nobility of their character and could serve as moral and political exemplars to those who contemplated them, others attempted to discern in photographs such as Szabó’s physical characteristics of the criminal psyche. Yet, as in Hugh Diamond’s portraits of the insane (no. 30), the reading of individual portraits is not always self-evident. Would the serious young man in the overcoat and silk top hat appear roguish without the caption “John McNauth alias Keely alias little hucks / Pick Pocket” below his portrait?

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909 (detail)

 

Eyebrows, eyelids, globes, orbits, wrinkles

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909 (detail)

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909 (detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l’étude du “portrait parlé” (and details)
c. 1909
Gelatin silver print
39.4 x 29.5 cm (15 1/2 x 11 5/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2009

 

 

Nineteenth-century police headquarters were host to disorganized “rogues’ galleries” swollen with photographic portraits of criminals, which turned even the simplest of searches into a Sisyphean labor. As a response, police clerk Alphonse Bertillon introduced a rigorous system of classification, or signalment, to help organize archives, a process that included not only quantitative anthropometric measurements of the head, body, and extremities but also qualitative descriptions of the face. Photography’s potential for exactitude made it a crucial tool for Bertillon’s system, and his portrait parlé – the basis for today’s mugshot – posited a powerful analogy between a photographic likeness and the ink fingerprint.

Akin to a cheat-sheet for police clerks, this composite photograph illustrates how the mugshot could yield a series of classifications, dividing the male criminal’s face into discrete units of information. Such points of identification include the precise differentiation between left ear and right, the angle of inclination of the chin, and the pattern of the folds on the brow. Although intended merely as a filing aide, this image of the human face in all its striations of repetition and difference renders surveillance as a terrifying manifestation of the modern sublime.

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“Bertillon’s other major legacy in the field of forensics was his invention of the mug shot. In the mid-nineteenth century, criminal photography focussed on identifying types of offenders; the exhibit’s earliest images are from an album of “rogues,” taken around 1860 in the United States by the photographer Samuel G. Szabó, who sought to distinguish the physiognomy of a counterfeiter from that of a “sneak thief,” a burglar, and a pickpocket. (Whatever revealing differences Szabó may have discerned, his subjects all look mad as hell to be stuck in his perp pictures.) Bertillon countered this hypothetical typology with empirical method, taking “anthropometric” measurements – determining the length of a convict’s middle finger, for example – as well as making elaborate verbal descriptions of a subject’s physical aspect, covering everything from his wrinkles to his eyelids, and two standardized photographs of his face, one from the front, one in profile.”

Alexandra Schwartz. “The Long Collusion of Photography and Crime,” on The New Yorker website April 9 2016 [Online] Cited 15/07/2016

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Véret. 0ctave-Jean. 19 ans, né à Paris XXe. Photographe. Anarchiste. 2/3/94.' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Véret. 0ctave-Jean. 19 ans, né à Paris XXe. Photographe. Anarchiste. 2/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Beaulieu. Henri, Félix, Camille. 23 ans, né le 30/11/70 à Paris Ve. Comptable. Anarchiste. 23/5/94.' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Beaulieu. Henri, Félix, Camille. 23 ans, né le 30/11/70 à Paris Ve. Comptable. Anarchiste. 23/5/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Soubrier. Annette (femme Chericotti). 28 ans, nŽe ˆ Paris Ille. Coutire. Anarchiste. 25/3/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Soubrier. Annette (femme Chericotti). 28 ans, nŽe ˆ Paris Ille. Coutire. Anarchiste. 25/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'SchulŽ. Armand. 21 ans, nŽ le 28/2/73 ˆ Choisy-le-Roi. Comptable. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
SchulŽ. Armand. 21 ans, nŽ le 28/2/73 ˆ Choisy-le-Roi. Comptable. Anarchiste. 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Roobin. Joseph. 40 ans, nŽ ˆ Bourgneuf (Loire-InfŽrieure). Terrassier. Anarchiste. 2/3/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Roobin. Joseph. 40 ans, nŽ ˆ Bourgneuf (Loire-InfŽrieure). Terrassier. Anarchiste. 2/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Robillard. Guillaume, Joseph. 24 ans, nŽ le 17/11/68 ˆVaucresson. Fondeur en cuivre. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Robillard. Guillaume, Joseph. 24 ans, nŽ le 17/11/68 ˆ Vaucresson. Fondeur en cuivre. Anarchiste. 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Ravachol. Franois Claudius Kœnigstein. 33 ans, nŽ ˆ St-Chamond (Loire). CondamnŽ le 27/4/92' 1892

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Ravachol. Franois Claudius Kœnigstein. 33 ans, nŽ ˆ St-Chamond (Loire). CondamnŽ le 27/4/92
1892
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Condemned 27/04/1892

 

 

“François Claudius Koenigstein, known as Ravachol (1859-1892), was a French anarchist. He was born on 14 October 1859, at Saint-Chamond, Loire and died guillotined on 11 July 1892, at Montbrison.

François Koenigstein was born in Saint-Chamond, Loire as the eldest child of a Dutch father (Jean Adam Koenigstein) and a French mother (Marie Ravachol). As an adult, he adopted his mother’s maiden name as his surname, following years of struggle after his father abandoned the family when François was only 8 years old. From that time on he had to support his mother, sister, and brother; he also looked after his nephew. He eventually found work as a dyer’s assistant, a job which he later lost. He was very poor throughout his life. For additional income he played accordion at society balls on Sundays at Saint-Étienne.

Ravachol became politically active. He joined the anarchists as well as groups organizing to improve working conditions. Labor unrest resulted in fierce reprisals by police. On 1 May 1891, at Fourmies, a workers demonstration took place for the eight-hour day; confrontations with the police followed. The Police opened fire on the crowd, resulting in nine deaths amongst the demonstrators. The same day, at Clichy, serious incidents erupted in a procession in which anarchists were taking part. Three men were arrested and taken to the commissariat of police. There they were interrogated (and brutalised with beatings, resulting in injuries). A trial (the Clichy Affair (fr)) ensued, in which two of the three anarchists were sentenced to prison terms (despite their abuse in jail.

In addition to these events, authorities kept up repression of the communards, which had continued from the time of the insurrection of the Paris Commune of 1871. Ravachol was aroused to take action in 1892 against members of the judiciary. He placed bombs in the living quarters of the Advocate General, Léon Bulot (executive of the Public Ministry), and Edmond Benoît, the councillor who had presided over the Assises Court during the Clichy Affair.

An informant told of his actions, and Ravachol was arrested on 30 March 1892 for his bombings at the Restaurant Véry. The day before the trial, anarchists bombed the restaurant where the informant worked. Ravachol was tried at the Assises Court of Seine on 26 April. He was convicted and condemned to prison for life. On 23 June, Ravachol was condemned to death in a second trial at the Assises Court of Loire for three murders. His participation in two of them is disputed (he confessed only to the murder of the hermit of Montbrison, claiming it was due to his own poverty). On 11 July 1892, Ravachol was publicly guillotined.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Cover page of "Le Petit Journal" illustrating the arrest of French anarchist and assassin Ravachol

 

Cover page of “Le Petit Journal” illustrating the arrest of French anarchist and assassin Ravachol (1859-1892)
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Rampin. Pierre. 3/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Rampin. Pierre. 3/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Peticolin. Henri. 23 ans, nŽ le 8/6/71 ˆGoersdorf (Bas-Rhin). Vernisseur. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Peticolin. Henri. 23 ans, nŽ le 8/6/71 ˆGoersdorf (Bas-Rhin). Vernisseur. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894 (verso)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Peticolin. Henri. 23 ans, nŽ le 8/6/71 ˆ Goersdorf (Bas-Rhin). Vernisseur. Anarchiste. 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Varnisher. Anarchist.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Olguéni Gustave. 24 ans, né à Sala (Suède) le 24-5-69. Artiste-peintre. Anarchiste. 14-3-94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Olguéni Gustave. 24 ans, né à Sala (Suède) le 24-5-69. Artiste-peintre. Anarchiste. 14-3-94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Adnet. Clotilde. 19 ans, née en décembre 74 à Argentant (Orne). Brodeuse. Anarchiste. Fichée le 7/1/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Adnet. Clotilde. 19 ans, née en décembre 74 à Argentant (Orne). Brodeuse. Anarchiste. Fichée le 7/1/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Embroiderer. Anarchist.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Nic. Celestin. 20 ans, nŽ ˆ Conflans-St-Honorine (Seine & Oise). Emballeur. 26/2/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Nic. Celestin. 20 ans, nŽ ˆ Conflans-St-Honorine (Seine & Oise). Emballeur. 26/2/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Mocquet. Georges, Gustave. 17 ans, nŽ le 17/5/76 ˆ Paris IXe. Tapissier. Anarchiste. 6/1/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Mocquet. Georges, Gustave. 17 ans, nŽ le 17/5/76 ˆ Paris IXe. Tapissier. Anarchiste. 6/1/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Feneon. Felix. Clerk of the Galerie Berheim Jeune' 1894-85

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Feneon. Felix. Clerk of the Galerie Berheim Jeune
1894-85
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

Félix Fénéon (22 June 1861, Turin, Italy – 29 February 1944, Châtenay-Malabry) was a Parisian anarchist and art critic during the late 19th century. He coined the term “Neo-Impressionism” in 1886 to identify a group of artists led by Georges Seurat, and ardently promoted them.

Felix Fénéon was a prominent literary stylist, art critic, and anarchist born in Turin, Italy in 1861. He was later raised in Burgundy, presumably because his father was a travelling salesman. After placing first in the competitive exams for jobs, Fénéon moved to Paris to work for the War Office where he achieved the rank of chief clerk. During his time in the war office he edited many works, including those of Rimbaud and Lautréamont, as well as helped to advance the fledgling pointillist movement under Georges Seurat. He was also a regular at Mallarmé’s salons on Tuesday evenings as well as active in anarchist circles.

Fénéon, ironically, worked 13 years at the War Office while remaining heavily active in supporting anarchist circles and movements. In March 1892 French police talked about Fénéon as an ‘active Anarchist’, and they had him shadowed. In 1894 Fénéon was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy because of an anarchist bombing of the Foyot restaurant, a popular haunt of politicians. He was also suspected of connection with the assassination of the French President, Sadi Carnot, by an Italian anarchist. He and twenty-nine others were arrested under charges of conspiracy in what became known as the “Trial of Thirty”. Fénéon was acquitted with many of the original thirty. However, the trial was a high point in publicity for Fénéon, normally behind the scenes, as he championed his wit to the amusement of the jury. Of the courtroom scene, Julian Barnes writes, “When the presiding judge put it to him that he had been spotted talking to a known anarchist behind a gas lamp, he replied coolly: Can you tell me, Monsieur le Président, which side of a gas lamp is its behind?”

After the trial, Fénéon became even more elusive. In 1890, the Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac asked to produce a portrait of the lauded critic. Fénéon refused several times before agreeing, on the condition that Signac produced a full face effigy. Signac naturally refused, painting instead a famous profile of Fénéon with his characteristic goatee, a picture that largely became a symbol of the movement, spawning many variations. Fénéon, though displeased, hung the picture on his wall until Signac’s death 45 years later. Aside from Novels in Three Lines that first appeared as clippings in the Parisian Le Matins in 1906 and later as a collection, only because his mistress Camille Pateel had collected them in an album, Fénéon published only a 43-page monograph in Les Impressionists (1886). When asked to produce Les Nouvelles en Trois Lignes as a collection, Fénéon famously replied with an angry “I aspire only to silence”. As Luc Sante points out, Fénéon, one might say, is invisibly famous, having affected so much without being recognizable to many.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Dupuis. Augustin. 53 ans, nŽ le 24/6/41 ˆ Dourdan (Seine &Oise). Charron, forgeron. Anarchiste. 3/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Dupuis. Augustin. 53 ans, nŽ le 24/6/41 ˆ Dourdan (Seine &Oise). Charron, forgeron. Anarchiste. 3/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Wheelwright, blacksmith. Anarchist.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'CharriŽ. Cyprien. 26 ans, nŽ le 7/10/67 ˆ Paris XVIlle. Imprimeur. Anarchiste 2/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
CharriŽ. Cyprien. 26 ans, nŽ le 7/10/67 ˆ Paris XVIlle. Imprimeur. Anarchiste 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Bellemans. Eugène (ou Michel). 23 ans, né à Gand (Belgique). Tailleur d'habits. Anarchiste. 9/3/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Bellemans. Eugène (ou Michel). 23 ans, né à Gand (Belgique). Tailleur d’habits. Anarchiste. 9/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

Born into a distinguished family of scientists and statisticians, Bertillon began his career as a clerk in the Identification Bureau of the Paris Prefecture of Police in 1879. Tasked with maintaining reliable police records of offenders, he developed the first modern system of criminal identification. The system, which became known as Bertillonage, had three components: anthropometric measurement, precise verbal description of the prisoner’s physical characteristics, and standardized photographs of the face.

In the early 1890s Paris was subject to a wave of bombings and assassination attempts carried out by anarchist proponents of “propaganda of the deed.” One of Bertillon’s greatest successes came in March 1892, when his system of criminal identification led to the arrest of an anarchist bomber and career criminal who went by the name Ravachol. The publicity surrounding the case earned Bertillon the Legion of Honor and encouraged police departments around the world to adopt his anthropometric system.

 

Unknown (American) '[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]' 1865

 

Unknown (American)
[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]
Artist: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 – 1882 Washington, D.C.)
Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company (American, active Boston)
Photography Studio: Unknown
April 20, 1865
Ink on paper with three albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Sheet: 60.5 x 31.3 cm (23 13/16 x 12 5/16 in.) Each photograph: 8.6 x 5.4 cm (3 3/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

On the night of April 14, 1865, just five days after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. Within twenty-four hours, Secret Service director Colonel Lafayette Baker had already acquired photographs of Booth and two of his accomplices. Booth’s photograph was secured by a standard police search of the actor’s room at the National Hotel; a photograph of John Surratt, a suspect in the plot to kill Secretary of State William Seward, was obtained from his mother, Mary (soon to be indicted as a fellow conspirator), and David Herold’s photograph was found in a search of his mother’s carte-de-visite album. The three photographs were taken to Alexander Gardner’s studio for immediate reproduction. This bill was issued on April 20, the first such broadside in America illustrated with photographs tipped onto the sheet.

The descriptions of the alleged conspirators combined with their photographic portraits proved invaluable to the militia. Six days after the poster was released Booth and Herold were recognized by a division of the 16th New York Cavalry. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Edward Doherty, demanded their unconditional surrender when he cornered the two men in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold complied; Booth refused. Two Secret Service detectives accompanying the cavalry, then set fire to the barn. Booth was shot as he attempted to escape; he died three hours later. After a military trial Herold was hanged on July 7 at the Old Arsenal Prison in Washington, D.C.

Surratt escaped to England via Canada, eventually settling in Rome. Two years later a former schoolmate from Maryland recognized Surratt, then a member of the Papal Guard, and he was returned to Washington to stand trial. In September 1868 the charges against him were nol-prossed after the trial ended in a hung jury. Surratt retired to Maryland, worked as a clerk, and lived until 1916.

 

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 - 1882 Washington, D.C.) 'Lewis Powell [alias Lewis Payne]' April 27, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 – 1882 Washington, D.C.)
Lewis Powell [alias Lewis Payne]
April 27, 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
22.4 × 17.4 cm (8 13/16 × 6 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

Alexander Gardner’s 1865 portrait of Lewis Powell, a conspirator with John Wilkes Booth. At roughly the same time that John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln, Lewis Paine attempted unsuccessfully to murder Secretary of State William Seward. The son of a Baptist minister from Alabama, Paine (alias Wood, alias Hall, alias Powell) was one of at least five conspirators who planned with Booth the simultaneous assassinations of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Seward. A tall, powerful man, Paine broke into the secretary’s house, struck his son Frederick with the butt of his jammed pistol, brutally stabbed the bedridden politician, and then escaped after stabbing Seward’s other son, Augustus.

Four days later, Paine was caught in a sophisticated police dragnet and arrested at the H Street boarding house of fellow conspirator Mary Surratt. Detained aboard two iron-clad monitors docked together on the Potomac, Paine and seven other presumed conspirators were photographed by Alexander Gardner on April 27. Gardner made full-length, profile, and full-face portraits of each of the men, presaging the pictorial formula later adopted by law-enforcement photographers. Of the ten known photographs of Paine, six show him against a canvas awning on the monitor’s deck, the others against the dented gun turret. In this portrait, Paine, towering more than a head above the deck officer, appears menacingly free of handcuffs. He was twenty years old.

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 - 1882 Washington, D.C.) 'Execution of the Conspirators' July 7, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 – 1882 Washington, D.C.)
Execution of the Conspirators
July 7, 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
16.8 x 24.2 cm (6 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

Alexander Gardner’s intimate involvement in the events following President Lincoln’s assassination would have challenged even the most experienced twentieth-century photojournalist. In just short of four months, Gardner documented in hundreds of portraits and views one of the most complex national news stories in American history. The U.S. Secret Service provided Gardner unlimited access to individuals and places unavailable to any other photographer. Free to retain all but one of his negatives-a portrait of Booth’s corpse-Gardner attempted to sell carte-de-visite and large-format prints of the whole picture story. America, still wounded from the four-year war, was less than interested.

The photographs of the execution of Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, David Herold, and George Atzerodt on July 7, 1865, were, however, highly sought after by early collectors of Civil War ephemera beginning in the 1880s. This photograph shows the final preparations on the scaffolding in the yard of the Old Arsenal Prison. The day was extremely hot and a parasol shades Mary Surratt, seated at the far left of the stage. (She would become the first woman in America to be hanged.) Two soldiers stationed beneath the stage grasp the narrow beams that hold up the gallows trapdoors. The soldier on the left would later admit he had just vomited, from heat and tension. Only one noose is visible, slightly to the left of Surratt; the other three nooses moved during the exposure and are registered by the camera only as faint blurs. Members of the clergy crowd the stage and provide final counsel to the conspirators. A private audience of invited guests stands at the lower left. Minutes after Gardner’s exposure, the conspirators were tied and blindfolded and the order was given to knock out the support beams.

 

Unknown. 'Policeman Posing with Four "Collared" Thugs' c. 1875

 

Unknown
Policeman Posing with Four “Collared” Thugs
c. 1875
Tintype
Image: 4 5/8 × 3 9/16 in. (11.7 × 9 cm), visible Plate: 5 7/16 × 4 1/16 in. (13.8 × 10.3 cm), approx.
Gift of Stanley B. Burns, MD and The Burns Archive, in honor of Elizabeth A. Burns, 2016

 

This rare narrative tintype of a policeman posing with four criminals handcuffed to one another may be viewed as an occupational portrait of sorts. The officer’s police cap and gleaming badge indicate his profession, while his pose and central placement emphasize his authority.

 

Unknown. '[Five Members of the Wild Bunch]' c. 1892

 

Unknown
[Five Members of the Wild Bunch]
c. 1892
Tintype
Image: 8.4 x 6.2 cm (3 5/16 x 2 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005

 

 

The Wild Bunch was the largest and most notorious band of outlaws in the American West. Led by two gunmen better known by their aliases, Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker) and Kid Curry (Harvey Logan), the Wild Bunch was an informal trust of thieves and rustlers that preyed upon stagecoaches, small banks, and especially railroads from the late 1880s to the first decade of the twentieth century.

This crudely constructed tintype portrait of five members of the gang dressed in bowler hats and city clothes shows, clockwise, from the top left, Kid Curry, Bill McCarty, Bill (Tod) Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, and Tom O’Day. Without their six shooters and cowboy hats the outlaws appear quite civilized and could easily be mistaken for the sheriffs and Pinkerton agents who pursued them in a “Wild West” already much tamed by the probable date of this photograph. Gone was the open range – instead, homesteads and farms dotted the landscape and barbed-wire fences frustrated the cattleman’s drive to market. Gone too was the anonymity associated with distance, as the camera and the telegraph conspired to identify criminals. Bank and train robbery were still lucrative, but the outlaw’s chances for escape gradually shifted in favor of the sheriff’s chances for arrest and conviction.

By 1903 the Wild Bunch had disbanded. A few members of the gang followed Butch Cassidy to South America, while the majority remained in the West, trying to avoid capture. McCarty was shot dead in 1893, in a street in Delta, Colorado, after a bank robbery; Carver died in prison; Kilpatrick was killed during a train robbery in 1912; Tom O’Day was captured by a Casper, Wyoming, sheriff in 1903; and Kid Curry died either by his own hand in Parachute, Colorado, in 1904, or, as legend has it, lived until he was killed by a wild mule in South America in 1909. The photograph comes from the collection of Camillus S. Fly, a pioneer photographer in Tombstone, Arizona, in the 1880s and sheriff of Cochise County in the 1890s.

 

Tom Howard (American, 1894 - 1961) '[Electrocution of Ruth Snyder, Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, New York]' 1928

 

Tom Howard (American, 1894 – 1961)
[Electrocution of Ruth Snyder, Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, New York]
1928
Gelatin silver print
24 x 19.3 cm (9 7/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2008
© The New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images

 

 

In spite of the universal ban on cameras in American death chambers, news editors have long recognized the public’s hunger for eyewitness images of high-profile executions. In January 1928 Tom Howard made tabloid history when he photographed, using a miniature camera strapped to his ankle, the electrocution of the convicted murderer Ruth Snyder at Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. The sensational picture ran under banner headlines on the front page of the New York Daily News two days in a row.

.
“In 1925, Snyder, a housewife from Queens Village, Queens, New York City, began an affair with Henry Judd Gray, a married corset salesman. She then began to plan the murder of her husband, enlisting the help of her new lover, though he appeared to be very reluctant. Her distaste for her husband apparently began when he insisted on hanging a picture of his late fiancée, Jessie Guishard, on the wall of their first home, and named his boat after her. Guishard, whom Albert described to Ruth as “the finest woman I have ever met”, had been dead for 10 years.

Ruth Snyder first persuaded her husband to purchase insurance, with the assistance of an insurance agent (who was subsequently fired and sent to prison for forgery) “signed” a $48,000 life insurance policy that paid extra (“double indemnity”) if an unexpected act of violence killed the victim. According to Henry Judd Gray, Ruth had made at least seven attempts to kill her husband, all of which he survived. On March 20, 1927, the couple garrotted Albert Snyder and stuffed his nose full of chloroform-soaked rags, then staged his death as part of a burglary. Detectives at the scene noted that the burglar left little evidence of breaking into the house; moreover, that the behavior of Mrs. Snyder was inconsistent with her story of a terrorized wife witnessing her husband being killed.

Then the police found the property Ruth claimed had been stolen. It was still in the house, but hidden. A breakthrough came when a detective found a paper with the letters “J.G.” on it (it was a memento Albert Snyder had kept from former love Jessie Guishard), and asked Ruth about it. A flustered Ruth’s mind immediately turned to her lover, whose initials were also “J.G.,” and she asked the detective what Gray had to do with this. It was the first time Gray had been mentioned, and the police were instantly suspicious. Gray was found upstate, in Syracuse. He claimed he had been there all night, but eventually it turned out a friend of his had created an alibi, setting up Gray’s room at a hotel. Gray proved far more forthcoming than Ruth about his actions. He was caught and returned to Jamaica, Queens and charged along with Ruth Snyder. Dorothy Parker told Oscar Levant that Gray tried to escape the police by taking a taxi from Long Island to Manhattan, New York, which Levant noted was “quite a long trip.” According to Parker, in order “not to attract attention, he gave the driver a ten-cent tip.” …

Snyder became the first woman executed in Sing Sing since 1899. She went to the electric chair only moments before her former lover. Her execution (by “State Electrician” Robert G. Elliott) was caught on film, by a photograph of her as the electricity was running through her body, with the aid of a miniature plate camera custom-strapped to the ankle of Tom Howard, a Chicago Tribune photographer working in cooperation with the Tribune-owned New York Daily News. Howard’s camera was owned for a while by inventor Miller Reese Hutchison, then later became part of the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Unknown (French) Publisher: Le Petit Parisien (French, active 1876–1944) 'Marius Bourotte' 1929

 

Unknown (French)
Publisher: Le Petit Parisien (French, active 1876–1944)
Marius Bourotte
1929
Gelatin silver print with applied color
11.6 x 16.2 cm. (4 9/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1996

 

These photographs of thieves and assassins were heavily retouched with ink and gouache to facilitate their reproduction in illustrated newspapers and magazines. Although they were not conceived as typological studies, the cropping and retouching deliberately intensified their sinister aspect, producing caricatures of criminality that satisfied the sensationalism of the picture press.

 

Unknown (American) '[Automobile Murder Scene]' c. 1935

 

Unknown (American)
[Automobile Murder Scene]
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
24.3 x 20.1 cm (9 9/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2008

 

 

This picture is a master class in the aesthetics of the crime photograph. As the writer Luc Sante has noted, photography stops time, while crime photography shows the stopped time of an individual life cut short. The anonymous cameraman (whose shadow can be seen in the image) may have worked for the police but was more likely a newspaper photographer. His editors must have considered this an absolute bull’s-eye combination of titillation, voyeurism, and fig-leaf moralizing that lets readers have their cake and eat it too. Most importantly, the stopped time of the crime photograph imparts a heightened significance to all the details within the frame, which could either be clues or random accident.

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) 'Human Head Cake Box Murder' c. 1940

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
Human Head Cake Box Murder
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
33.6 x 26.9 cm (13 1/4 x 10 9/16 in.)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
© Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

 

It is hard to decide which of the several mysteries contained in this macabre photograph is the most bizarre: the murder to which the title alludes, the headless bodies standing flat-footedly around a bodyless head, the “scriptboy” who enters at upper left, how the police photographer can be both rooted to the spot and levitating above it, why he wears his hat as he works, or where Weegee is standing.

 

John Gutmann (American (born Germany), Breslau 1905 - 1998 San Francisco) "X Marks the Spot Where Ralph Will Die" 1938

 

John Gutmann (American (born Germany), Breslau 1905 – 1998 San Francisco)
“X Marks the Spot Where Ralph Will Die”
1938
Gelatin silver print
23.4 x 17.8 cm (9 3/16 x 7 in.)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
© 1998 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

Trained as a painter, Gutmann fled Germany for America in 1933. In need of money, the artist began photographing across the country as a foreign correspondent for the tremendously popular picture magazines of his homeland, which had an insatiable appetite for all things American. What began as an assignment in exile – travelling from New York, Chicago, and Detroit to New Orleans and San Francisco – became a remarkable lifelong career in a new medium and country.

One of the earliest and most inventive practitioners of street photography, Gutmann was one of the great poets and chroniclers of a particularly American kind of city life – the endless supply of characters and spontaneous dramas set against a backdrop of skyscrapers, signs, and graffiti.

 

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) '[Outline of a Murder Victim]' 1942

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
[Outline of a Murder Victim]
1942
Gelatin silver print
33.9 x 27.4 cm. (13 3/6 x 10 13/16 in.)
Gift of Bruce A. Kirstein, in memory of Marc S. Kirstein, 1978
© Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

 

Working as a freelance press photographer in New York City during the mid-1930s and 1940s, Weegee achieved notoriety through sensational photographs of a crime-ridden metropolis. Although his nickname derived from an earlier job as a “squeegee boy” drying photographic prints in a professional darkroom, through brazen self-styling he designated himself a human Ouija board, who always seemed to know where the next big scoop would be. In fact, he lived across the street from police headquarters and used a department-issued radio. Here, Weegee distills the genre of the crime scene photograph into a minimalist trace: the camera’s flashbulb illuminates a hastily drawn chalk outline bearing the stark label “HEAD.”

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) 'Man Escorting Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York. November 10, 1944' 1944

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
Man Escorting Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York. November 10, 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print
9 1⁄2 × 7 9/16″ (24.1 × 19.2 cm)
International Center of Photography. Bequest of Wilma Wilcox
© 2014 Weegee/ International Center of Photography/Getty Images

PHOTOGRAPH NOT IN EXHIBITION.
Taken prior to the famous image by Weggee below.

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) 'Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide' 1944

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide
1944
Gelatin silver print
33.6 x 26.4 cm (13 1/4 x 10 3/8 in.)
Anonymous Gift, 2005

 

 

“For Weegee… a photographic print was usually nothing more than a by-product. Weegee’s prints served as the matrices from which halftone and gravure printing plates were made (by others) for reproduction in magazines, books, and newspapers. Weegee intended these mass-produced multiples, and not the photographic prints themselves, to be the final forms of his imagery… He did not expect or intend his work to be experienced in the form of photographic prints.”

A. D. Coleman, “Weegee as Printmaker: An Anomaly in the Marketplace,” in Tarnished Silver: After the Photo Boom. New York: Midmarch, 1996, p. 28. (Emphasis added.) quoted in Jason E. Hill.

 

The subject of this photograph, a sixteen-year-old boy, confessed to tying up and strangling four-year-old William Drach in the Bronx on October 29, 1944, allegedly mimicking what he had seen in a movie. Here, Weegee adapts the traditional tropes of portraiture, in which the sitter’s hands and facial features are of the utmost importance, to present a caged criminal still armed with his weapons. Exploiting the cramped quarters of the police van, Weegee frames the boy’s placid face within the crisscross of the chain-linked fence. The boy’s hands – the presumed tools of his crime – are eerily dismembered from his body.

“On November 9, 1944, the American photographer Weegee made three exposures of Frank Pape, moments after the sixteen year old was arraigned on homicide charges for the accidental strangling death of a four-year-old neighbor and as he was escorted into a police wagon outside the Manhattan Police Headquarters, on Centre Market Place, en route to the 161st Street courthouse in the Bronx.1 Of these, the third expo- sure, which pictures the young Pape through the luminously articulated mesh of that police wagon’s grated rear window and is the basis for Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944 in the Thomas Walther Collection, now stands among the photographer’s best-known and most widely collected and reproduced works.”

For more on the creation and dissemination of this print, see Jason E. Hill, “In the Police Wagon, in the Press, and in The Museum of Modern Art (A Note on Weegee’s Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944)”.

The original negative was horizontal and was cropped in various proportions, photographs taken from the above article by Jason E. Hill:

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) 'Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York' 1944

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York
1944
Photographic negative (digitally scanned and inverted)
4 x 5″ (10.2 x 12.7 cm)
International Center of Photography
© 2014 Weegee/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

PHOTOGRAPH NOT IN EXHIBITION

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) 'Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York' 1944 indicating cropping variants

 

This print, made by Sid Kaplan in 1983, shows the entire view of Weegee’s original negative for the third exposure he took of Frank Pape in November 1944. Colored frames indicate the cropping of prints, now in various collections, derived from the negative: Sid Kaplan’s portfolio of Weegee’s prints, International Center of Photography, New York (red); Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (blue); Sixteen-Year-Old Boy Who Strangled a Four-Year-Old Child to Death, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (dark green); Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (brown); Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (orange); Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York, International Center of Photography (yellow); the image as it was first published in PM (white); the image as it appeared in Weegee’s 1945 book, Naked City (light green).

 

William Klein. 'Gun 1, New York' 1955

 

William Klein (American, born New York, 1928)
Gun 1, New York
1954, printed 1986
Gelatin silver print
45.4 x 33.3 cm (17 7/8 x 13 1/8 in.)
Gift of the artist, in honor of his mother, Mrs. Helen Klein, 1987

 

 

Upon his return home in the late 1940s after eight years abroad in the army, Klein found his native New York City familiar but strange. Commissioned by Vogue to create a photographic book about the city, Klein recorded its vibrancy and grittiness, producing an uncompromising portrait that the magazine ultimately rejected. He subsequently took his photographs to Paris and published them under the title Life is Good & Good for You in New York. For this photograph, Klein asked two boys on Upper Broadway to pose. One pointed a gun at the camera, his face erupting with rage, mimicking the stereotypical poses of criminals in our image-saturated society.

 

United Press International (American) Person in Photograph: Patricia Hearst (American, born 1954) 'SAN FRANCISCO. Fugitive newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst and three other members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) were reported captured in the Mission District here 9/18, bringing to an end one of the most bizarre criminal cases in U.S. History. In this photo released by the FBI 4/15/74, a girl resembling Miss Hearst is shown with a weapon in hand during a robbery of the Hibernia Bank' 1974

 

United Press International (American)
Person in Photograph: Patricia Hearst (American, born 1954)
SAN FRANCISCO. Fugitive newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst and three other members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) were reported captured in the Mission District here 9/18, bringing to an end one of the most bizarre criminal cases in U.S. History. In this photo released by the FBI 4/15/74, a girl resembling Miss Hearst is shown with a weapon in hand during a robbery of the Hibernia Bank
1974
Gelatin silver print
22.4 x 17.5 cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/8 in.)
Gift of Alan L. Paris, 2011

 

 

The newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in a 1974 shot from a bank surveillance camera.

The kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was one of the most sensational news stories of the twentieth century. As part of its mission to dismantle the U.S. government and its capitalist values, the SLA abducted Hearst, an act that catapulted the terrorist group onto an international stage. A few months later, the SLA released tapes of Hearst declaring that she had joined their crusade, and within weeks she was photographed participating in a San Francisco bank robbery. The bank’s surveillance camera captured the photographs, vividly demonstrating the power of the medium to render a dramatic image of an event, even without a person behind the lens.

 

Larry Clark (American, born 1943) 'Armed Robbers, Oklahoma City' 1975, printed 1981

 

Larry Clark (American, born 1943)
Armed Robbers, Oklahoma City
1975, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 20.2 cm. (12 x 7 15/16 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1994
© Larry Clark

 

 

A child of Eisenhower’s straitlaced and conformist 1950s America, Clark saw the camera as a way to “turn back the years” and photograph a younger crowd doing the kinds of things he either did or wanted to have done when he himself was a teenager – shooting drugs, shacking up with prostitutes, and committing all manner of crimes. Because of the nature of who and what he was photographing, almost all of Clark’s work from this period would become memorial in nature. This double portrait makes manifest the dangerous allure that is often attached to portrayals of criminality.

 

United Press International (American) '[Bank Robber Aiming at Security Camera, Cleveland, Ohio]' March 8, 1975

 

United Press International (American)
[Bank Robber Aiming at Security Camera, Cleveland, Ohio]
March 8, 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image: 6 7/8 × 4 13/16 in. (17.4 × 12.2 cm) Sheet: 7 1/2 × 5 7/8 in. (19.1 × 15 cm)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2015

 

This startling photograph captures a robber firing his pistol at a bank camera to prevent it from recording his identity. Although he and his accomplices absconded with $11,600 in the heist, the gunman was too slow for the ever-watchful eye of the security camera, which caught his face right before the shot rang out, enabling authorities to identify their suspect.

 

 

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26
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro: Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland’ at The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

Exhibition dates: 8th November 2014 – 9th February 2015

Curators: Scott Wilcox and Jennifer A. Watts

 

Individually, the work of these two photographers is outstanding, but together?

The premise for the exhibition (two American photographers in Britain and Ireland) seems weak, tenuous at best. The exhibition focuses on the contrasting styles of the two photographers – Davidson is a photojournalist and Caponigro practices a pure, formalist approach to landscape photography – “as they trained American eyes on enduring landscapes and changing cultural scenes… “Britain and Ireland are the countries to which each man embarked on significant creative journeys in the course of refining his art.” (Jennifer A. Watts)”

But is this enough? For example, the ground breaking exhibition Caravaggio – Bacon at Gallery Borghese, Rome in 2009-2010 offered the viewer something that they had never thought about before: “Instinctively, intellectually we know how the paintings of a Baroque artist of the early 17th century affect how we look at the paintings of Bacon. This exhibition offers the reverse, in fact it rewrites how we look at Caravaggio – through the benediction of Bacon.”

Here no such revelation occurs. You could argue that the connection lies outside photography in a concern for what is present in the landscape, what is present in a community, what is present beyond bricks and mortar, leaves and rocks – what is our place in the world, full stop. But the work of the artists is so different, one from the other, that this diffident relationship is strained at best. No wonder these humans had never met before the opening of the exhibition, for they seem artistically to have little in common.

I have tried to sequence the photographs in the posting, so that they might have some reflection, some conversation one to the other: the presence of The Duke of Argyll, fag in hand kitted out in traditional Scottish attire, and the grandness of his residence playing off the darkness, isolation and simplicity of the house in Caponigro’s Connemara, County Galway, Ireland; the luminous stones in Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England becoming the dark edged reflections in Davidson’s London (1960); and the church in Caponigro’s Church, St. MacDara’s Island, County Galway, Ireland morphing into the temple of the British sun, the beach holiday, in Davidson’s Blackpool (1965) – but it is hard work.

Best to just enjoy the photographs individually, especially Caponigro’s glorious paen to ancient forces Avebury, Wiltshire, England (1967, below). The life force of the tree, the life force of the stone – the communion of those two things with the landscape – with sheep in the background. A friend of mine who knows Caponigro told me that he said he never travelled anywhere without a blow up sheep in the back of the car.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the The Huntington Library for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932), 'Avebury, Wiltshire, England' 1967

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Avebury, Wiltshire, England
1967
Gelatin silver print
9 3/8 × 13 1/8
© Paul Caponigro

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) 'Brighton' 1960

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
Brighton
1960
Gelatin silver print
8 3/4 ×12 7/8 in.,
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) 'Callanish Stone Circle, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland' 1972

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Callanish Stone Circle, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
1972
Gelatin silver print
17 1/4 × 23 3/4 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) 'Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England' 1967

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England
1967
Gelatin silver print
17 × 23 3/8 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) 'The Duke of Argyll, Inverary, Scotland' 1960

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
The Duke of Argyll, Inverary, Scotland
1960
Gelatin silver print
9 × 13 1/4 in.
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) 'Connemara, County Galway, Ireland' 1970

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Connemara, County Galway, Ireland
1970
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 × 12 1/8 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Wales' 1965

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
Wales
1965
Gelatin silver print
8 1/4 × 12 1/2 in.
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Henry S. Hacker, Yale BA 1965
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Wales' 1965

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
Wales
1965
Gelatin silver print
8 3/8 × 12 5/8 in.
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Henry S. Hacker, Yale BA 1965
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) 'Running White Deer, Wicklow, Ireland' 1967

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Running White Deer, Wicklow, Ireland
1967
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 × 19 1/8 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) 'Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England' 1977

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England
1977
Gelatin silver print
13 5/8 × 19 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) 'London' 1960

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
London
1960
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 × 12 7/8 in.
Yale Center for British Art, Friends of British Art Fund
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Wales' 1965

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
Wales
1965
Gelatin silver print
8 3/8 × 12 1/2 in
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Henry S. Hacker, Yale BA 1965
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Wales' 1965

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
Wales
1965
Gelatin silver print
8 1/4 × 12 1/2 in.
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Henry S. Hacker, Yale BA 1965
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) 'Tralee Bay, County Kerry, Ireland' 1977

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Tralee Bay, County Kerry, Ireland
1977
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 × 13 1/4 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

 

Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro: Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland is set to open at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens on Nov. 8 after a successful run at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven over the summer. Focusing on the contrasting styles of two of the greatest American photographers of their generation, the exhibition of 128 works by Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) and Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) showcases their photography of Britain and Ireland beginning in 1960. It will be presented in a newly designed installation in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery through March 9, 2015.

Davidson traveled to England and Scotland in 1960, where he brought the same gritty street sensibility that had made his photography a sensation in the United States. Caponigro went to Ireland and Britain in 1966 on a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship. Those countries became sites of creative energy to which he returned repeatedly in the 1960s and beyond. The exhibition examines the work of the two virtuosic photographers as they trained American eyes on enduring landscapes and changing cultural scenes.

“This is the first exhibition to pair these influential contemporaries who followed overlapping yet distinct creative paths,” said Jennifer A. Watts, the exhibition’s co-curator and curator of photographs at The Huntington. “Britain and Ireland are the countries to which each man embarked on significant creative journeys in the course of refining his art. How fitting, then, to bring these works to The Huntington, where we have one of the strongest collections of British art and historical materials in the country.”

The exhibition is also curated by Scott Wilcox, chief curator of art collections and senior curator of prints and drawings at the Yale Center for British Art. Watts and Wilcox also coauthored a richly illustrated catalog of the exhibition, published by Yale University Press.

 

The Artists and Their Work in Britain and Ireland

While Caponigro and Davidson were acquainted with each other’s work, the two had never met until the opening of the exhibition in New Haven.

Davidson is a photojournalist and member of the prestigious Magnum Agency; Caponigro practices a pure, formalist approach to landscape photography. Both are devoted to black-and-white film and continue to make prints by hand. And both of them produced important bodies of work in Britain and Ireland beginning in 1960.

In trips to Britain in 1960 and 1965, Davidson created an evocative and sometimes tongue-in-cheek portrait of the British people at work and play. During numerous visits starting in 1967, Caponigro focused on the ancient stone circles, dolmens, and early churches in the British and Celtic landscape. “There’s a force in the land and it’s intelligent” became Caponigro’s mantra and guide. He returned repeatedly to the United Kingdom and Ireland (his latest photographs in the exhibition are from 1993).

Paul Caponigro was born in Boston, a shy child in a boisterous Italian-American family. Drafted into the Army in 1953, he was sent to San Francisco and eventually fell under the influence of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and other luminaries of the Bay Area school, a loose affiliation of photographers who took the natural landscape as their subject and used razor-sharp focus and superb printing techniques as expressive tools. In 1966, he went to Ireland and Britain on a Guggenheim grant. He had intended to travel to Egypt, but unrest in the Middle East interrupted his plans. “Ireland became my Egypt,” he said, “and the stones my temples.”

That year marked the beginning of a sustained relationship with places that significantly shaped his career. He returned a dozen times over the next decade.

Bruce Davidson grew up in suburban Chicago and purchased his first camera as a young boy. In 1952, he enrolled in the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York, encountering there the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. The spontaneity and emotional depth of their pictures proved a revelation.

In the late 1950s, Davidson was invited to join Magnum, the elite organization of photojournalists founded by Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and several others. He received wide acclaim with the publication in 1960 of Brooklyn Gang, a series featuring a notorious group of streetwise teens. He left the United States shortly thereafter for England and Scotland on a two-month assignment for British magazine The Queen.

He would return to the United Kingdom periodically thereafter, producing photography documenting a range of people in diverse settings, including Blackpool, the mining districts of southern Wales, and a traveling circus in rural Ireland.

 

Still Looking (excerpt)

 

Installation

The installation will divide the gallery into two separate but equal sections devoted to each artist’s work. Davidson’s photographs are organized according to the four trips he made on assignment between 1960 and 1967. Caponigro’s work will be seen in geographic sections that account for the numerous trips he made to the British Isles over more than two decades. The Huntington’s presentation of the show will incorporate two recently acquired Caponigro prints. (The institution also holds a substantial collection of Caponigro’s work that focuses on California and the West.)

Still Looking, a film featuring both photographers and produced exclusively for the exhibition, is installed in a separate room of the exhibition and is also posted online. Created in early 2014 by Huntington filmmaker Kate Lain, the 16-minute film is a series of evocative moments with Davidson and Caponigro on location in their respective homes in New York City and Maine.”

Press release from The Huntington Library website

 

Still Looking

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) 'Trafalgar Square, London' 1960

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
Trafalgar Square, London
1960
Gelatin silver print
13 1/4 × 8 7/8 in.
Yale Center for British Art, Friends of British Art Fund
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) 'Trethevy Quoit, Cornwall, England' 1977
Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Trethevy Quoit, Cornwall, England
1977
Gelatin silver print
19 × 13 1/2 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

Paul Capongiro (b. 1932) 'Church, St. MacDara’s Island, County Galway, Ireland' 1989

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Church, St. MacDara’s Island, County Galway, Ireland
1989
Gelatin silver print
19 1/8 × 14 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) 'Blackpool' 1965

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
Blackpool
1965
Gelatin silver print
12 7/8 × 8 3/4 in.
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Henry S. Hacker, Yale BA 1965
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) 'Brighton' 1960

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
Brighton
1960
Gelatin silver print
13 1/4 × 8 7/8 in
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) 'London' 1960

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
London
1960
Gelatin silver print
13 1/4 × 9 in.
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Richard S. and Jeanne Press
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) 'Dead Calf in the Sand, County Kerry, Ireland' 1993

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Dead Calf in the Sand, County Kerry, Ireland
1993
Gelatin silver print
18 1/8 × 13 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) 'Albert Hall, London' 1960

 

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933)
Albert Hall, London
1960
Gelatin silver print
13 × 8 7/8 in
Yale Center for British Art, Friends of British Art Fund
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) 'Reefert Church, Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland' 1988

 

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932)
Reefert Church, Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland
1988
Gelatin silver print
19 × 13 1/4 in
© Paul Caponigro

 

 

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road San Marino, CA 91108

Opening hours:
Monday 12 pm – 4.30 pm
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 12 pm – 4.30 pm
Thursday 12 pm – 4.30 pm
Friday 12 pm – 4.30 pm
Saturday 10.30 am – 4.30 pm
Sunday 10.30 am – 4.30 pm

The Huntington Library website

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01
May
14

Exhibition: ‘What Is a Photograph?’ at the International Center of Photography, New York

Exhibition dates: 31st January – 4th May 2014

Artist in the exhibition include:

Matthew Brandt b. 1982, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles. Marco Breuer b. 1966, Landshut, Germany; lives and works in New York State. Liz Deschenes b. 1966, Boston; lives and works in New York City. Adam Fuss b. 1961, London; lives and works in New York City. Owen Kydd b. 1975, Calgary, Canada; lives and works in Los Angeles. Floris Neusüss b. 1937, Lennep, Germany; lives and works in Kassel, Germany. Marlo Pascual b. 1972, Nashville; lives and works in Brooklyn. Sigmar Polke 1941–2010; Germany. Eileen Quinlan b. 1972, Boston; lives and works in New York City. Jon Rafman b. 1981, Montreal; lives and works in Montreal. Gerhard Richter b. 1932, Dresden; lives and works in Cologne. Mariah Robertson b. 1975, Indianapolis, Indiana; lives and works in Brooklyn. Alison Rossiter b. 1953, Jackson, Mississippi; lives and works in the metro New York area. Lucas Samaras b. 1936, Macedonia, Greece; lives and works in New York City. David Benjamin Sherry b. 1981, Woodstock, New York; lives and works in Los Angeles. Travess Smalley b. 1986, Huntington, West Virginia; lives and works in New York City. Kate Steciw b. 1978, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; lives and works in Brooklyn. Artie Vierkant b. 1986, Breinerd, Minnesota; lives and works in New York City. James Welling b. 1951, Hartford, Connecticut; lives and works in Los Angeles. Christopher Williams b. 1956, Los Angeles; lives and works in Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Amsterdam. Letha Wilson b. 1976, Honolulu; lives and works in Brooklyn.

 

 

A Vocabulary of Photography: representation and the original, the ‘I can’ of sight

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What is a photograph? These days, it can be anything your imagination desires, any imag(in)ing that takes your fancy…

The images in this posting are a case in point. In a postmodern, post-photographic world where there is (allegedly) no centre and periphery, these art works are photography playing at the edges of photography. They examine “the range of creative experimentation that has occurred in photography since the 1970s,” reconsidering and reinventing, “the role of light, color, composition, materiality, and the subject in the art of photography.”

In an earlier posting I talked about A Vocabulary of Printing and the Syntax of the Image. Here we could equally posit a Vocabulary of Photography, a compendium of techniques and imaginings, noting that technology and imagination should never delimit the creativity of the photographer/artist. In other words visions, boundaries and technologies are there to be pushed!

All well and good. To solidify meaning in such a nebulous world, there is penchant for (ambiguous) numbers – titles such as 6236; Untitled (C-1189); 154 – or definitive titles that try to fix ambiguity in a specific time, place or typology (a classification according to general type) eg Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33 PM, 2013 or Supplement ’13 (Mixed Typologies) #3.

However, what is produced by this experimentation, this voluminous vocabulary, seldom leads to satisfying results. When you actually look at this type of work, really look at it with a clear and aware mind (as Krishnamurti would say), a large proportion of it is blather, noise for the sake of making noise, tinkering for a terrestrial world saturated in meaningless images. No wonder I get disillusioned with the “contemporary” in photography. The art work seems to mean very little and takes me nowhere I particularly want to go.

While photographs are no longer necessarily “points of view” analogous to Littré’s rigorous definition: ‘The point of view is a collection of objects to which the eye is directed and on which it rests within a certain distance’,1 and “the image has nothing to do with signification, meaning, as implied by the existence of the world, the effort of truth, the law and the brightness of the day”2 – meaning that there is no single truth, there are only competing narratives and interpretations of a world that cannot be wholly, accurately described3 – for me there still needs to be a re(as)semblance towards some form of inherent truth in the image, ideally some form of human happiness.

The ‘I can’ of site (representation) /sight (vision) …

Marcus

 

1. Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 19
2. Blanchot, Maurice. The Gaze of Orpheus. New York: Barrytown, 1981, p. 85
3. Townsend, Chris. Vile Bodies: Photography and the Crisis of Looking. Munich: Prestel, 1998, p. 10

.
Many thankx to the International Center of Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

“Vision is ordered according to a mode that may be generally called the function of images. This function is defined by a point-by-point correspondence of two unities in space. Whatever optical intermediaries may be used to establish their relation, whether their image is virtual, or real, the point-by-point correspondence is essential. That which is the mode of the image is therefore reducible to the simple schema that enables us to establish anamorphosis, that is to say, to the relation of an image, in so far as it linked to a surface, with a certain point that we shall call the ‘geometrical’ point. Anything that is determined by this method, in which the straight line plays its role of being the path of light, can be called an image.”
.
Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (trans. Alan Sheridan). London: The Hogarth Press, 1977, p. 86

 

“With the industrial proliferation of visual and audiovisual protheses and unrestrained use of instantaneous-transmission equipment from earliest childhood onwards, we now routinely see the encoding of increasingly elaborate mental images together with a steady decline in retention rates and recall. In other words we are looking at the rapid collapse of mnemonic [aiding memory] consolidation.

This collapse seems only natural, if one remembers a contrario that seeing, and its spatio-temporal organisation, precede gesture and speech and their co-ordination in knowing, recognising, making known (as images of our thoughts), our thoughts themselves and cognitive functions, which are never passive… (Romains, Jules. La Vision extra-rétinienne et le sens paroptique. Paris: Gallimard, 1964).

Everything I see is in principle within my reach, at least within reach of my sight, marked on the map of the ‘I can’. In this important formulation, Merleau-Ponty pinpoints precisely what will eventually find itself ruined by the banalisation of a certain teletopology. The bulk of what I see is, in fact and in principle, no longer with in my reach. And even if it lies within reach of my sight, it is no longer necessarily inscribed on the map of the ‘I can’. The logistics of perception in fact destroy what earlier modes of representation preserved of the original, ideally human happiness, the ‘I can’ of sight… ”

.
Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 7 (my bold)

 

 

Matthew Brandt. 'Grays Lake, ID 7' 2013

 

Matthew Brandt
Grays Lake, ID 7
2013
© Matthew Brandt, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

James Welling. '6236' 2008

 

James Welling
6236
2008
© James Welling, courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

 

Alison Rossiter. 'Kilborn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1940s, processed in 2013 (#1)' 2013

 

Alison Rossiter
Kilborn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1940s, processed in 2013 (#1)
2013
© Alison Rossiter, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Eileen Quinlan. 'The Drink' 2011

 

Eileen Quinlan
The Drink
2011
© Eileen Quinlan, courtesy Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York

 

Gerhard Richter. '18.2.08' 2008

 

Gerhard Richter
18.2.08
2008
© Gerhard Richter, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

 

Kate Steciw. 'Armchair, Background, Basic, Beauty, Bed, Bedside, Bread, Breakfast, Bright, Cereal, Closeup, Cloth, Color, Contemporary, Couch, Crust, Day, Decor, Fox, Frame, Grain, Ingredient, Interior, Invitation, Irregular, Juice, Life, Living, Loaf, Luxury, Macro, Sofa, Speed, Style, Sweet, Texture' 2013

 

Kate Steciw
Armchair, Background, Basic, Beauty, Bed, Bedside, Bread, Breakfast, Bright, Cereal, Closeup, Cloth, Color, Contemporary, Couch, Crust, Day, Decor, Fox, Frame, Grain, Ingredient, Interior, Invitation, Irregular, Juice, Life, Living, Loaf, Luxury, Macro, Sofa, Speed, Style, Sweet, Texture
2013
1 and 2 of infinite
© Kate Steciw

 

 

“On view at the International Center of Photography from January 31 through May 4, 2014, What Is a Photograph? explores the range of creative experimentation that has occurred in photography since the 1970s.

This major exhibition brings together 21 emerging and established artists who have reconsidered and reinvented the role of light, color, composition, materiality, and the subject in the art of photography. In the process, they have also confronted an unexpected revolution in the medium with the rise of digital technology, which has resulted in imaginative reexaminations of the art of analog photography, the new world of digital images, and the hybrid creations of both systems as they come together.

“Artists around the globe have been experimenting with and redrawing the boundaries of traditional photography for decades,” said ICP Curator Carol Squiers, who organized the exhibit. “Although digital photography seems to have made analog obsolete, artists continue to make works that are photographic objects, using both old technologies and new, crisscrossing boundaries and blending techniques.”

Among those included in the exhibition is Lucas Samaras, who adopted the newly developed Polaroid camera in the late 1960s and early 1970s and immediately began altering its instant prints, creating fantastical nude self-portraits. Another artist who turned to photography in the 1970s was Sigmar Polke. Although better known as a painter, Polke explored nontraditional ways of photographing and printing, manipulating both his film and prints in the darkroom and often drawing and painting on his images.

More recently, Liz Deschenes has used camera-less photography in a subtle investigation of nonrepresentational forms of expression and the outmoded technologies of photography. And, James Welling has created a heterogeneous body of work that explores optics, human perception, and a range of photographic genres both abstract and representational.”

Press release from the International Center of Photography website

 

Letha Wilson. 'Colorado Purple' 2012

 

Letha Wilson
Colorado Purple
2012
Concrete, chromogenic print transfer, and wood frame
Courtesy the artist and Higher Pictures, New York
© Letha Wilson, courtesy Higher Pictures, New York

 

Adam Fuss. 'Untitled' 1988

 

Adam Fuss
Untitled
1988
© Adam Fuss, courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

Marco Breuer. 'Untitled (C-1189)' 2012

 

Marco Breuer
Untitled (C-1189)
2012
© Marco Breuer, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

David Benjamin Sherry. 'Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite, California' 2013

 

David Benjamin Sherry
Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite, California
2013
© David Benjamin Sherry, courtesy the artist and Salon 94, New York

 

Mariah Robertson. '154' [detail] 2010

 

Mariah Robertson
154 [detail]
2010
© Mariah Robertson, courtesy American Contemporary, New York

 

Artie Vierkant. 'Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33 PM, 2013' 2013

 

Artie Vierkant
Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33 PM, 2013
2013
© Artie Vierkant, courtesy Higher Pictures, New York

 

Christopher Williams. 'Supplement '13 (Mixed Typologies) #3' [detail] 2013

 

Christopher Williams
Supplement ’13 (Mixed Typologies) #3 [detail]
2013
© Christopher Williams, courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne

 

Jon Rafman. 'New Age Demanded (The heart was a place made fast)' 2013

 

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (The heart was a place made fast)
2013
© Jon Rafman, courtesy the artist and Zach Feuer Galery, New York

 

Floris Neusüss. 'Tango' 1983

 

Floris Neusüss
Tango
1983
© Floris Neusüss, courtesy the artist and Von Lintel Gallery, New York

 

Marlo Pascual. 'Untitled' 2010

 

Marlo Pascual
Untitled
2010
© Marlo Pascual, courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York
Photo: Jean Vong

 

Owen Kydd. 'Pico Boulevard (Nocturne)' 2012

 

Owen Kydd
Pico Boulevard (Nocturne)
2012
Courtesy the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
© Owen Kydd

 

 

International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street
New York NY 10036
T: 212 857 0045

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Wednesday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Thursday – Friday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Saturday – Sunday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Closed: Mondays

International Center of Photography website

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19
Apr
14

Exhibition: ‘Photography and the American Civil War’ at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)

Exhibition dates: 31st January – 4th May 2014

 

This posting continues my fascination with the American Civil War, with new photographs from the exhibition to compliment the posting I did when it was staged at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, April – September 2013.

I have included fascinating close-up details: the collar of African-American Union soldier John Henry flapping in the breeze during the long time exposure (What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia November 1862, below); the pale grey/blue eyes of George Patillo which have been added to the plate afterwards1 (The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John) etc… 1861-63, below); the horrific branding of the slave Wilson Chinn who had the initials of his owner burned into his head (Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks, December 1863, below); and the crumpled coat of Allan Pinkerton, Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, as he poses with his president (President Abraham Lincoln et al, October 4, 1862, below).

Marcus

 

1. “The daguerreotype, like all photographic processes before 1873 [including Ambrotypes], was sensitive to blue light only, so that red dresses registered black and people with blue eyes appeared to have no irises and looked quite strange.”

Davies, Alan. An Eye for Photography: The camera in Australia. Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press/State Library of New South Wales, 2002, p. 8.

.
Many thankx to the New Orleans Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) 'What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia' November 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia
November 1862
Albumen photograph from the album Incidents of the War
Photography collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs
The New York Public Library Astor, Lennox and Tilden Foundations

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) 'What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia' (detail) November 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
What Do I Want, John Henry? Warrenton, Virginia (detail)
November 1862
Albumen photograph from the album Incidents of the War
Photography collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs
The New York Public Library Astor, Lennox and Tilden Foundations

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902) 'Confederate Method of Destroying Rail Roads at McCloud Mill, Virginia' 1863

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Confederate Method of Destroying Rail Roads at McCloud Mill, Virginia
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Unknown Artist. 'Captain Charles A. and Sergeant John M. Hawkins, Company E, "Tom Cobb Infantry," Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry' 1861-62

 

Unknown Artist
Captain Charles A. and Sergeant John M. Hawkins, Company E, “Tom Cobb Infantry,” Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry
1861-62
Quarter-plate ambrotype with applied color
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Photo: Jack Melton

 

The vast majority of war portraits, either cased images or cartes de visite, are of individual soldiers. Group portraits in smaller formats are more rare and challenged the field photographer (as well as the studio gallerist) to conceive and execute an image that would honor the occasion and be desirable – saleable – to multiple sitters. For the patient photographer, this created interesting compositional problems and an excellent opportunity to make memorable group portraits of brothers, friends, and even members of different regiments.

In this quarter-plate ambrotype, Confederate Captain Charles Hawkins of the Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, on the left, sits for his portrait with his brother John, a sergeant in the same regiment. They address the camera and draw their fighting knives from scabbards. Charles would die on June 13, 1863, in the Shenandoah Valley during General Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North. John, wounded at the Battle of Gaines’s Mill in June 1862, would survive the war, fighting with his company until its surrender at Appomattox.

 

Unknown '[The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John), Company K, "Henry Volunteers," Twenty-second Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry]' 1861-63

 

Unknown
[The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John), Company K, “Henry Volunteers,” Twenty-second Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry]
1861-63
Ambrotype
Plate: 8.3 x 10.8 cm (3 1/4 x 4 1/4 in.)
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

The four Pattillo boys of Henry County were brothers who all enlisted together in Company K of the 22nd Regiment of the GA Volunteer Infantry on August 31, 1861.

Benjamin, seated on the left holding a Confederate hand-grenade, made a 50-dollar bounty during his tenure from April 5 to June 20, 1862. He was shot in the stomach at 2nd Manassas on August 30, 1862, and died in the General Hospital in Warrenton, VA, the next day.

George, second from the left, was detailed for shoemaking at Augusta, GA in November of 1862 until the close of the war. He was the only Pattillo to make it out of the Civil War without an injury. He made 35 cents per shoe and made 106 shoes in February 29, for $37.10. The pay for a soldier was 3 dollars per day.

James, second from the right, was discharged in March of 1862 but reenlisted afterwards. He was shot in the foot in the Battle of Second Deep Bottom on August 16, 1864. The injury resulted in the amputation of his third toe. Pension records show he was at home on wounded furlough to close of the war.

John, seated on the right, was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital #2 in Richmond on May 31, 1862, because of a case of Dysentery. He returned to duty on June 14, 1862, but was wounded at the Seven Days’ battles near Richmond on June 28,1862. He was admitted to C. S. A. General Hospital at Charlottesville on November 20, 1862, and again on December 16, 1862. He returned to duty on December 17, 1862, but pension records show he was discharged on account of wounds in March of 1863. (Text from the Historynet.com website)

 

Unknown '[The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John), Company K, "Henry Volunteers," Twenty-second Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry]' (detail) 1861-63

 

Unknown
[The Pattillo Brothers (Benjamin, George, James, and John), Company K, “Henry Volunteers,” Twenty-second Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry] (detail)
1861-63
Ambrotype
Plate: 8.3 x 10.8 cm (3 1/4 x 4 1/4 in.)
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Myron H. Kimball (American, active 1860s) 'Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks' December 1863

 

Myron H. Kimball (American, active 1860s)
Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks
December 1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Myron H. Kimball (American, active 1860s) 'Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks' (detail) December 1863

 

Myron H. Kimball (American, active 1860s)
Emancipated Slaves Brought from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Banks (detail)
December 1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

The slave (at back left) with those letters was Wilson Chinn, who was about 60 years old at the time. When he was 21 years old he was sold to Volsey B. Marmillion, a sugar planter about 45 miles above New Orleans. Marmillion branded his slaves, including Wilson. Those are Marmillion’s initials, horrifically burned into Wilson’s forehead in the image.

Russell Lord, photography curator at NOMA

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902) 'Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia' 1863

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
25.6 x 36.5 cm (10 1/16 x 14 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Better known for his later views commissioned by the Union Pacific Railroad, A. J. Russell, a captain in the 141st New York Infantry Volunteers, was one of the few Civil War photographers who was also a soldier. As a photographer-engineer for the U.S. Military Railroad Con struction Corps, Russell’s duty was to make a historical record of both the technical accomplishments of General Herman Haupt’s engineers and the battlefields and camp sites in Virginia. This view of a slave pen in Alexandria guarded, ironically, by Union officers shows Russell at his most insightful; the pen had been converted by the Union Army into a prison for captured Confederate soldiers.

Between 1830 and 1836, at the height of the American cotton market, the District of Columbia, which at that time included Alexandria, Virginia, was considered the seat of the slave trade. The most infamous and successful firm in the capital was Franklin & Armfield, whose slave pen is shown here under a later owner’s name. Three to four hundred slaves were regularly kept on the premises in large, heavily locked cells for sale to Southern plantation owners. According to a note by Alexander Gardner, who published a similar view, “Before the war, a child three years old, would sell in Alexandria, for about fifty dollars, and an able-bodied man at from one thousand to eighteen hundred dollars. A woman would bring from five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars, according to her age and personal attractions.” 

Late in the 1830s Franklin and Armfield, already millionaires from the profits they had made, sold out to George Kephart, one of their former agents. Although slavery was outlawed in the District in 1850, it flourished across the Potomac in Alexandria. In 1859, Kephart joined William Birch, J. C. Cook, and C. M. Price and conducted business under the name of Price, Birch & Co. The partnership was dissolved in 1859, but Kephart continued operating his slave pen until Union troops seized the city in the spring of 1861.

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) 'Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond
1865
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Ruins of Mrs. Henry's House, Battlefield of Bull Run; Bull Run, Mrs. Henry's House, 21 July 1861' March 1862

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Ruins of Mrs. Henry’s House, Battlefield of Bull Run; Bull Run, Mrs. Henry’s House, 21 July 1861
March 1862
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown '[Civil War Portrait Lockets]' 1860s

 

Maker: Unknown
[Civil War Portrait Lockets]
1860s
Tintypes and albumen silver prints in brass, glass, and shell enclosures
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown '[Civil War Portrait Lockets]' (detail) 1860s

 

Maker: Unknown
[Civil War Portrait Lockets] (detail)
1860s
Tintypes and albumen silver prints in brass, glass, and shell enclosures
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

“More than 200 of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War have been brought together for the landmark exhibition Photography and the American Civil War, opening January 31 at New Orleans Museum of Art. Organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition will examine the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war. The “War between the States” was the great test of the young Republic’s commitment to its founding precepts; it was also a watershed in photographic history. The camera recorded from beginning to end the heartbreaking narrative of the epic four-year war (1861-1865) in which 750,000 lives were lost. This exhibition will explore, through photography, the full pathos of the brutal conflict that, after 150 years, still looms large in the American public’s imagination.

“This extraordinary exhibition transcends geographic divisions in its intense focus on the participants in the Civil War,” said Susan M. Taylor, Director of New Orleans Museum of Art. “It becomes an exploration of shared human traits: hope, resolution, stoicism, fear, and sadness. We are delighted to share this important statement about American history and identity with the people of New Orleans and the Gulf region.”

 

Exhibition overview

Photography and the American Civil War will include: intimate studio portraits of armed Union and Confederate soldiers preparing to meet their destiny; battlefield landscapes strewn with human remains; rare multi-panel panoramas of the killing fields of Gettysburg and destruction of Richmond; diagnostic medical studies of wounded soldiers who survived the war’s last bloody battles; and portraits of Abraham Lincoln as well as his assassin John Wilkes Booth. The exhibition features groundbreaking works by Mathew B. Brady, George N. Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan, among many others. It also examines in-depth the important, if generally misunderstood, role played by Brady, perhaps the most famous of all wartime photographers, in conceiving the first extended photographic coverage of any war. The exhibition addresses the widely held, but inaccurate, belief that Brady produced most of the surviving Civil War images, although he actually made very few field photographs during the conflict. Instead, he commissioned and published, over his own name and imprint, negatives made by an ever-expanding team of field operators, including Gardner, O’Sullivan, and Barnard.

Approximately 1,000 photographers worked separately and in teams to produce hundreds of thousands of photographs – portraits and views – that were actively collected during the period (and over the past century and a half) by Americans of all ages and social classes. In a direct expression of the nation’s changing vision of itself, the camera documented the war and also mediated it by memorializing the events of the battlefield as well as the consequent toll on the home front.

“The massive scope of this exhibition mirrors the tremendous role that photography played in describing, defining, and documenting the Civil War,” said Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photography. “The technical, cultural and even discursive functions of photography during the Civil War are critically traced in this exhibition, as is the powerful human story, a story of the personal hopes and sacrifices and the deep and tragic losses on both sides of the conflict.”

Press release from the New Orleans Museum of Art website

 

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Maker: Unknown
[Presidential Campaign Medals with Portraits of John C. Breckinridge, Stephen A. Douglas and Edward Everett]
1860
Tintype
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) '[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), and E. J. Allen (Allan Pinkerton, left), Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, at Secret Service Department, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near Antietam, Maryland]' October 4, 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), and E. J. Allen (Allan Pinkerton, left), Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, at Secret Service Department, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near Antietam, Maryland]
October 4, 1862
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Copy Photograph © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;) '[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), and E. J. Allen (Allan Pinkerton, left), Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, at Secret Service Department, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near Antietam, Maryland]' (detail) October 4, 1862

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.;)
[President Abraham Lincoln, Major General John A. McClernand (right), and E. J. Allen (Allan Pinkerton, left), Chief of the Secret Service of the United States, at Secret Service Department, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near Antietam, Maryland] (detail)
October 4, 1862
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Copy Photograph © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown, American; Photography Studio: After, Brady & Co., American, active 1840s–1880s '[Mourning Corsage with Portrait of Abraham Lincoln]' (detail) Photograph, corsage April 1865

 

Maker: Unknown, American; Photography Studio: After, Brady & Co., American, active 1840s–1880s
[Mourning Corsage with Portrait of Abraham Lincoln] (detail)
Photograph, corsage
April 1865
Black and white silk with tintype set inside brass button
20 x 9 cm (7 7/8 x 3 9/16 in.) Image: 2 x 2 cm (13/16 x 13/16 in.)
Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2013
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah' 1866

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
Photograph © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown '[Game Board with Portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and Union Generals]' 1862

 

Maker: Unknown
[Game Board with Portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and Union Generals]
1862
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Maker: Unknown '[Game Board with Portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and Union Generals]' (detail) 1862

 

Maker: Unknown
[Game Board with Portraits of President Abraham Lincoln and Union Generals] (detail)
1862
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Brian D. Caplan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Unknown '[Confederate Sergeant in Slouch Hat]' 1861-62

 

Unknown
[Confederate Sergeant in Slouch Hat]
1861-62
Ambrotype
David Wynn Vaughan, Jr. Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Attributed to, Oliver H. Willard (American, active 1850s-70s, died 1875) 'Ordnance, Private' 1866

 

Attributed to, Oliver H. Willard (American, active 1850s-70s, died 1875)
Ordnance, Private
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Unknown '[James A. Holeman, Company A, "Roxboro Grays," Twenty-fourth North Carolina Infantry Regiment, Army of Northern Virginia]' 1861-62

 

Unknown
[James A. Holeman, Company A, “Roxboro Grays,” Twenty-fourth North Carolina Infantry Regiment, Army of Northern Virginia]
1861-62
Ambrotype
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Captain James A. Holeman of Person County, Roxboro lost his life during the Civil War

 

Unknown. 'Sojourner Truth, "I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance"' 1864

 

 

Unknown
Sojourner Truth, “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance”
1864
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Carte-de-visite
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2013
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on gender inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves (Wikipedia)

 

Maker: Unknown (American; Alexander Gardner, American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.; Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company, American, active Boston) '[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]' April 20, 1865

 

Maker: Unknown (American; Alexander Gardner, American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.; Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company, American, active Boston)
[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]
April 20, 1865
Ink on paper with three albumen silver prints from glass negatives
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

On the night of April 14, 1865, just five days after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. Within twenty-four hours, Secret Service director Colonel Lafayette Baker had already acquired photographs of Booth and two of his accomplices. Booth’s photograph was secured by a standard police search of the actor’s room at the National Hotel; a photograph of John Surratt, a suspect in the plot to kill Secretary of State William Seward, was obtained from his mother, Mary (soon to be indicted as a fellow conspirator), and David Herold’s photograph was found in a search of his mother’s carte-de-visite album. The three photographs were taken to Alexander Gardner’s studio for immediate reproduction. This bill was issued on April 20, the first such broadside in America illustrated with photographs tipped onto the sheet.
The descriptions of the alleged conspirators combined with their photographic portraits proved invaluable to the militia. Six days after the poster was released Booth and Herold were recognized by a division of the 16th New York Cavalry. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Edward Doherty, demanded their unconditional surrender when he cornered the two men in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold complied; Booth refused. Two Secret Service detectives accompanying the cavalry, then set fire to the barn. Booth was shot as he attempted to escape; he died three hours later. After a military trial Herold was hanged on July 7 at the Old Arsenal Prison in Washington, D.C.
 Surratt escaped to England via Canada, eventually settling in Rome. Two years later a former schoolmate from Maryland recognized Surratt, then a member of the Papal Guard, and he was returned to Washington to stand trial. In September 1868 the charges against him were nol-prossed after the trial ended in a hung jury. Surratt retired to Maryland, worked as a clerk, and lived until 1916.

 

 

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17
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 15th September 2013 – 20th January 2014

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“A man’s face as a rule says more, and more interesting things, than his mouth, for it is a compendium of everything his mouth will ever say, in that it is the monogram of all this man’s thoughts and aspirations.”

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Arthur Schopenhauer

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Now this is portrait photography, and all done with relatively long exposures. By god did they know how to take a photograph that has some presence, some frame of mind that evidences a distinct point of view. I had the best fun assembling this posting, even though it took me many hours to do so. The details are exquisite – the hands clasped on the lap, the hands holding the pipe and, best of all, the arched hand with the fingers gently touching the patterned fabric – such as you don’t observe today. The research to find out as much as I could about these people was both fascinating and tragic: “Abraham Brown accidentally killed himself while cleaning his gun on July 11, 1863.”

It is interesting to see the images without an over-mat so that you can observe the backdrop and props in the photographers studio, captured on the whole plate. The narrative external to the matted image, outside the frame. But this view of the image gives a spurious reading of the structure and tension points of the photograph. Any photographer worth his salt previsualises the image and these photographers would have been no different. They would have known their studio, their backdrops and props, and would have known which over-mat they were going to place the finished image in (chosen by themselves or the client). Look at any of the images I have over-matted in white and see how the images come alive in terms of their tension points and structure. How the body takes on a more central feature of the image. How props such as the American flag in Private Abraham F. Brown (1863, below) form a balancing triangle to the figure using the flag, the chair and the trunk as anchor points. This is how these images were intended to be seen and it is this form that gives them the most presence and power.

While it is intriguing to see what lies beyond the over-mat this continuum should not be the centre of our attention for it is the histories, subjectivities and struggles of these brave men that should be front and centre, just as they appear within this cartouche of their life.

Marcus

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PS. I have just noticed that the Ambrotype by an unknown photographer Unidentified Private, Company I, 54th Massachusetts Regiment (1863, below) and the Albumen print by an unknown photographer Private James Matthew Townsend (1863, below) are taken in the same studio – notice the table and fabric and the curtain at right hand side. They were probably taken at the same sitting when both men were present. One obviously chose an Ambrotype and the other an Albumen print, probably because of cost?

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art, Washington for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. For an in depth look at the Battle of Fort Wagner see the National Park Service Civil War Series Fort Wagner web page.

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IVES – Three Places in New England from Jon Frank on Vimeo.

Work commissioned by Aurora Orchestra, combining video projection with live orchestra performance of Charles Ives Three Places in New England. Concert premiered in London, July 7th, 2013. The first movement was written about the Shaw memorial and features in the film.

Many thankx to Jon Frank who shot the moving pictures to be projected behind the orchestras live performance for emailing me about the video.

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Unknown photographer. 'Unidentified Private, Company I, 54th Massachusetts Regiment' (detail) 1863

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Unknown photographer. 'Unidentified Private, Company I, 54th Massachusetts Regiment' (detail) 1863

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Unknown photographer
Unidentified Private, Company I, 54th Massachusetts Regiment (details)
1863
Ambrotype
Overall: 11.2 x 8.6 cm (4 7/16 x 3 3/8 in.)
Image: 8.7 cm x 6.4 cm (3 7/16 x 2 1/2 in.)
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

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Unknown photographer. 'Private Abraham F. Brown' 1863

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Unknown photographer
Private Abraham F. Brown
1863
Tintype
Mat: 17.8 x 12.7 cm (7 x 5 in.)
Image: 8 cm x 7 cm (3 1/8 x 2 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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This photograph depicts Private Abraham F. Brown, a member of Company E, part of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first black regiment raised in the North during the Civil War.

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Unknown photographer. 'Private Abraham F. Brown' (with overmat) 1863

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Unknown photographer
Private Abraham F. Brown (with over-mat)
1863
Tintype

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Unknown photographer. 'Private Abraham F. Brown' (inverted with overmat to show background extraneous to portrait) 1863

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Unknown photographer
Private Abraham F. Brown (inverted with overmat to show background extraneous to portrait)
1863
Tintype

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Unknown photographer. 'Private Abraham F. Brown' (inverted with overmat to show background extraneous to portrait - detail of writing on wheel) 1863

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Unknown photographer
Private Abraham F. Brown (inverted with overmat to show background extraneous to portrait – detail of writing on wheel)
1863
Tintype

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Unknown photographer. 'Private Abraham F. Brown' 1863

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Unknown photographer
Private Abraham F. Brown
1863
Tintype
Mat: 17.8 x 12.7 cm (7 x 5 in.)
Image: 8 cm x 6.5 cm (3 1/8 x 2 9/16 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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Private Abraham F. Brown probably had his portrait made shortly after the 54th arrived in SC in June 1863. A sailor born in Toronto, Canada, Abraham Brown accidentally killed himself while cleaning his gun on July 11, 1863, on James Island, northwest of Fort Wagner.

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Unknown photographer. 'Private Abraham F. Brown' (with overmat) 1863

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Unknown photographer
Private Abraham F. Brown (with over-mat)
1863
Tintype

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Unknown photographer. 'Private Richard Gomar' c. 1880

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Unknown photographer
Private Richard Gomar
c. 1880
Tintype
Mat: 17.8 x 12.7 cm (7 x 5 in.)
Image: 8.5 cm x 6 cm (3 3/8 x 2 3/8 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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Richard Gomar enlisted in Company H on 17 April 1863 at the age of seventeen and was mustered in on 13 May. He was a laborer from Battle Creek, Michigan. He was mustered out after the regiment’s return to Boston on 20 August 1865. He received a state bounty of $50, and his last known address was Cedar Rapids, Iown.

Portrayed here in a half-length study, Gomar is in civilian clothes and on his waistcoat is wearing a membership badge of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization. This version of the badge was adopted in 1880. According to regulation, Gomar wears the badge on the left breast of his waistcoat, but the tintype process has reversed the image.

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H. C. Foster (?) 'Private John Gooseberry, musician' 1864

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H. C. Foster (?)
Private John Gooseberry, musician
1864
Tintype
Mat: 17.8 x 12.7 cm (7 x 5 in.)
Image: 10 x 6.8 cm (3 15/16 x 2 2/3 in.)
Plate: 10.7 cm x 8.1 cm (4 3/16 x 3 3/16 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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One of the twenty-one Black recruits from Canada, twenty-five-pear-old Goosberry, a sailor of St. Catharines, Ontario, was mustered into Company E on July 16, 1863, just two days before the fateful assault on Fort Wagner. He was mustered out of service on August 20, 1865, at the disbanding of the regiment. Born in New Orleans, he survived the war but died destitute at about age 38.

Goosberry appears in this full-length photograph wearing his uniform as a company musician, holding a fife and standing before a plain backdrop. The buttons and buckle of the uniform have been hand colored, and there is an impression remaining on the tintype from an earlier oval frame.

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H. C. Foster (?) 'Private John Gooseberry, musician' (detail) 1864

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H. C. Foster (?)
Private John Gooseberry, musician (detail)
1864
Tintype

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H. C. Foster (?) 'Private Alexander H. Johnson, musician' 1864

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H. C. Foster (?)
Private Alexander H. Johnson, musician
1864
Tintype
Mat: 17.8 x 12.7 cm (7 x 5 in.)
Image: 8 x 6.5 cm (3 1/8 x 2 9/16 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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Johnson served as a musician in  Co. C. of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Colonel Shaw referred to Private Alexander Johnson, a 16-year-old recruit from New Bedford, Massachusetts, as the “original drummer boy.” He was with Shaw when the colonel died at Fort Wagner and carried important messages to other officers during the battle.

Alexander H. Johnson enlisted at the age of 16 as a drummer boy in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. He was the first black musician to enlist during the Civil War, and is depicted as the drummer leading the column of troops on the memorial honoring Colonel Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts in front of the Massachusetts state house in Boston. Alex was adopted by William Henry Johnson, the second black lawyer in the United States and close associate of Frederick Douglass. Johnson’s original surname was Howard and his mother was a Perry. His grandfather was Peter Perry, a native Hawaiian whaler who married an Indian woman.

After the war, Alex Johnson was a member of both the Grand Army of the Republic General George H. Ward Post #10 and of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is frequently mentioned in the book We All Got History by Nick Salvatore. Alexander Johnson died 19 March 1930, at the age of 82, just a few weeks after the 67th anniversary of his enlistment in the 54th. (Text from the Battle of Olustee website)

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H. C. Foster (?) 'Private Alexander H. Johnson, musician' (detail) 1864

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H. C. Foster (?)
Private Alexander H. Johnson, musician (detail)
1864
Tintype

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Unknown photographer. 'Private William J. Netson, musician' c. 1863-1864

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Unknown photographer
Private William J. Netson, musician
c. 1863-1864
Tintype
Mat: 17.8 x 12.7 cm (7 x 5 in.)
Image: 8.5 cm x 6.5 cm (3 3/8 x 2 9/16 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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Netson served as a Musician, in  Co. E, of the 54th Massachuetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

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Unknown photographer. 'Private William J. Netson, musician' (with overmat) c. 1863-1864

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Unknown photographer
Private William J. Netson, musician (with over-mat)
c. 1863-1864
Tintype

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Unknown photographer. 'Private Charles A. Smith' c. 1880

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Unknown photographer
Private Charles A. Smith
c. 1880
Tintype
Overall: 8.7 cm x 6.2 cm (3 7/16 x 2 7/16 in.)
Image: 8.7 x 6 cm (3 7/16 x 2 3/8 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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Smith served as a  Private in Co. C. of the 54th Massachuetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

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Unknown photographer. 'Sergeant Henry F. Steward' 1863

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Unknown photographer
Sergeant Henry F. Steward
1863
Ambrotype
Mat: 17.8 x 12.7 cm (7 x 5 in.)
Image: 10.5 cm x 8 cm (4 1/8 x 3 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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A twenty-three year old farmer from Adrian, Michigan, Henry Steward enlisted on 4 April 1863 and was mustered in on April 23. As a non-commissioned officer, as were all Black officers, Steward was actively engaged in the recruiting of soldiers for the regiment. He died of disease at the regimental hospital on Morris Island, South Carolina, on 27 September 1863, and his estate was paid a $50 state bounty. Standing at attention with his sword drawn in this full-length study, Steward is posed in front of a plain backdrop, but a portable column has been wheeled in to add detail on the left. Hand-colored trousers and buttons highlight the uniform in this ambrotype of Sergeant Steward.

Beginning in March 1863, African American recruits streamed into Camp Meigs on the outskirts of Boston, eager to enlist in the 54th. By May, the regiment numbered more than 1,000 soldiers. Most were freemen working as farmers or laborers; some were runaway slaves. Many of the new enlistees, proud of their professions and uniforms, had photographs of themselves taken. Their pictures recall Frederick Douglass’ 1863 speech before an audience of potential recruits: “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S.; let him get an eagle on his button and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.”

Henry F. Steward, shown here, actively recruited for the 54th in Michigan. He had been promoted to sergeant soon after he arrived at Camp Meigs and probably had this portrait made shortly after he received his rifle and uniform. Proud of his new career, Stewart paid an extra fee to have the photographer tint his cap, sword, breastplate, and pants with paint to highlight their importance. Steward survived the Battle of Fort Wagner but died just over two months later, most likely of dysentery.

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Unknown photographer. 'Sergeant Henry F. Steward' (with overmat) 1863

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Unknown photographer
Sergeant Henry F. Steward (with over-mat)
1863
Ambrotype

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“Continuing its year-long celebration of African American history, art, music, and culture, the National Gallery of Art announces a major exhibition honoring one of the first regiments of African Americans formed during the Civil War. Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial will be on view in the American galleries on the West Building’s Main Floor from September 15, 2013, through January 20, 2014. The 54th Massachusetts fought in the Battle of Fort Wagner, South Carolina, on July 18, 1863, an event that has been documented and retold in many forms, including the popular movie Glory, released in 1989.

“Then, as today, the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment captured the imagination: they were common men propelled by deep moral principles, willing to sacrifice everything for a nation that had taken much from them but now promised liberty,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “This exhibition celebrates the brave members of the 54th, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial commemorating their heroism, and the works of art they and the monument continue to inspire.”

The magisterial Shaw Memorial (1900) by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), on long-term loan to the Gallery from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, and the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, is considered by many to be one of the finest examples of 19th-century American sculpture. This monument commemorates the July 18, 1863, storming of Fort Wagner by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts, a troop of African American soldiers led by white officers that was formed immediately after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Although one-third of the regiment was killed or wounded in the assault, including Shaw himself, the fierce battle was considered by many to be a turning point in the war: it proved that African Americans could be exemplary soldiers, with a bravery and dedication to country that equaled the nation’s most celebrated heroes.

Part of the exhibition’s title, “Tell It with Pride,” is taken from an anonymous letter written to the Shaw family announcing the death of Robert Gould Shaw. The letter is included in the exhibition and the catalogue accompanying the show.

When Saint-Gaudens created the figures in the memorial, he based his depiction of Shaw on photographs of the colonel, but he hired African American models, not members of the 54th Massachusetts, to pose for the other soldiers. This exhibition seeks to make real the anonymous African American soldiers of the 54th, giving them names and faces where possible. The first section of the exhibition shows vintage photographic portraits of the soldiers, the people who recruited them – including the noted abolitionists Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips, Charles Lenox Remond, and Sojourner Truth – and the women who nursed, taught, and guided them, such as Clara Barton, Charlotte Forten, and Harriet Tubman. In addition, the exhibition presents a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, a recruiting poster, a letter written by a soldier, Corporal James Henry Gooding, to President Lincoln arguing for equal pay, and the Medal of Honor awarded to the first African American to earn this distinction, Sergeant William H. Carney, as well as other documents related to both the 54th Massachusetts and the Battle of Fort Wagner. Together, these works of art and documents detail critical events in American history and highlight both the sacrifices and the valor of the individual soldiers.

The second half of the exhibition looks at the continuing legacy of the 54th Massachusetts, the Battle of Fort Wagner, and the Shaw Memorial. By presenting some of the plaster heads Saint-Gaudens made in preparation for his work on the Shaw Memorial, the exhibition discusses its development from 1883, when Saint Gaudens’ concept began to take shape, through the installation of the bronze monument on Boston Common in 1897, to the artist’s final re-working in the late 1890s of the original plaster now on view at the National Gallery of Art.  The exhibition concludes by showing how the Shaw Memorial remains a deeply compelling work that continues to inspire artists as diverse as Lewis Hine, Richard Benson, Carrie Mae Weems, and William Earle Williams, who have reflected on these people, the event, and the monument itself in their own art.”

For over a century, the 54th Massachusetts, its famous battle at Fort Wagner, and the Shaw Memorial have remained compelling subjects for artists. Poets such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Robert Lowell praised the bravery of these soldiers, as did composer Charles Ives. Artists as diverse as Lewis Hine, Richard Benson, Carrie Mae Weems, and William Earle Williams have highlighted the importance of the 54th as a symbol of racial pride, personal sacrifice, and national resilience. These artists’ works illuminate the enduring legacy of the 54th Massachusetts in the American imagination and serve as a reminder, as Ralph Ellison wrote in an introduction to Invisible Man, “that war could, with art, be transformed into something deeper and more meaningful than its surface violence.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website

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Unknown photographer. 'Private Charles H. Arnum' 1864

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Unknown photographer
Private Charles H. Arnum
1864
Tintype
Mat: 17.8 x 12.7 cm (7 x 5 in.)
Image: 10 cm x 6.5 cm (3 15/16 x 2 9/16 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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Listed as a teamster and a resident of Springfield, Massachusetts, the twenty-one year old Arnum enlisted at Littleton and was mustered in as a private into Company E on November 4, 1863. He served with the regiment until it was disbanded on August 20, 1865. He received $325 as a state bounty, and his last known address was North Adams, Massachusetts. This full-length study of Arnum shows him in uniform with his hand resting upon the American flag, which is draped over a table in the foreground. Behind him is a painted backdrop representing a seashore military camp.

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Unknown photographer. 'Second Lieutenant Ezekiel G. Tomlinson, Captain Luis F. Emilio, and Second Lieutenant Daniel Spear' October 12, 1863

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Unknown photographer
Second Lieutenant Ezekiel G. Tomlinson, Captain Luis F. Emilio, and Second Lieutenant Daniel Spear
October 12, 1863
Tintype
Overall: 8.6 cm x 6.5 cm (3 3/8 x 2 9/16 in.)
Image: 8.3 cm x 6.2 cm (3 1/4 x 2 7/16 in.)
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

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John Adams Whipple. 'Colonel Robert Gould Shaw' 1863

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John Adams Whipple
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw
1863
Albumen print
Image: 8.4 x 5.8 cm (3 5/16 x 2 5/16 in.)
Boston Athenaeum

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Death at the Battle of Fort Wagner

The 54th Regiment was sent to Charleston, South Carolina to take part in the operations against the Confederates stationed there. On July 18, 1863, along with two brigades of white troops, the 54th assaulted Confederate Battery Wagner. As the unit hesitated in the face of fierce Confederate fire, Shaw led his men into battle by shouting, “Forward, Fifty-Fourth, forward!” He mounted a parapet and urged his men forward, but was shot through the heart and died almost instantly. According to the Colors Sergeant of the 54th, he was shot and killed while trying to lead the unit forward and fell on the outside of the fort.

The victorious Confederates buried him in a mass grave with many of his men, an act they intended as an insult. Following the battle, commanding Confederate General Johnson Hagood returned the bodies of the other Union officers who had died, but left Shaw’s where it was. Hagood informed a captured Union surgeon that “had he been in command of white troops, I should have given him an honorable burial; as it is, I shall bury him in the common trench with the niggers that fell with him.” Although the gesture was intended as an insult, it came to be seen as an honor by Shaw’s friends and family that he was buried with his soldiers.

Efforts were made to recover Shaw’s body (which had been stripped and robbed prior to burial), but his father publicly proclaimed that he was proud to know that his son was interred with his troops, befitting his role as a soldier and a crusader for emancipation. In a letter to the regimental surgeon, Lincoln Stone, Frank Shaw wrote:

“We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers…. We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company – what a body-guard he has!”

Annie Haggerty Shaw, a widow at the age of 28, never remarried. She lived with her family in New York, Lenox and abroad, a revered figure and in later years an invalid. She died in 1907 and is buried at the cemetery of Church-on-the Hill in Lenox. (Text from Wikipedia)

John Adams Whipple (September 10, 1822 – April 10, 1891) was an American inventor and early photographer. He was the first in the United States to manufacture the chemicals used for daguerreotypes; he pioneered astronomical and night photography; he was a prize-winner for his extraordinary early photographs of the moon; and he was the first to produce images of stars other than the sun (the star Vega and the Mizar-Alcor stellar sextuple system, which was thought to be a double star until 2009. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Unknown photographer. 'Captain Luis F. Emilio' c. 1863-1865

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Unknown photographer
Captain Luis F. Emilio
c. 1863-1865
Tintype
Overall: 12.7 x 7.62 cm (5 x 3 in.)
Image: 6.6 x 5.33 cm (2 5/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Pamplin Historical Park and The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier

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Luis F. Emilio (December 22, 1844 – September 16, 1918) was a Captain in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an American Civil War Union regiment. Emilio was born on December 22, 1844 in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of a Spanish immigrant who made his living as a music instructor. Although the minimum age for service in the Union army was 18, in 1861 – at age 16 – Emilio gave his age as 18 and enlisted in Company F of the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was noticeably brave and steadfast, and by September, 1862 he had been promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Emilio was among the group of original officers of the 54th selected by Massachusetts War Governor John Albion Andrew. He mustered in as a 2nd Lieutenant on March 30, 1863. Two weeks later, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and on May 27, he was made Captain of Company E. Captain Emilio emerged from the ferocious assault on Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863 as the regiment’s acting commander, since all of the other ranking officers had been killed or wounded. He fought with the 54th for over three years of dangerous combat, mustering out of the Union army on March 29, 1865, still not yet 21 years old.

Following the war, he went into the real estate business, first in San Francisco, and later in New York. After assisting two old comrades documenting the history of the 23rd Massachusetts regiment in the mid-1880s, he began work on his own documentation of the 54th, publishing the first edition of Brave Black Regiment in 1891, and the revised edition in 1894. He died in New York on September 16, 1918 after a long illness, and was buried in the Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Unknown photographer. 'Unidentified Private, Company I, 54th Massachusetts Regiment' 1863

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Unknown photographer
Unidentified Private, Company I, 54th Massachusetts Regiment
1863
Ambrotype
Overall: 11.2 x 8.6 cm (4 7/16 x 3 3/8 in.)
Image: 8.7 cm x 6.4 cm (3 7/16 x 2 1/2 in.)
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

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Major J. W. Appleton. 'Diary of Major J. W. Appleton open to tintype of Private Samuel J. Benton' c. 1865-1885

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Major J. W. Appleton
Diary of Major J. W. Appleton open to tintype of Private Samuel J. Benton
c. 1865-1885
Handwritten journal with clippings, drawings, and photographic prints
Page size: 35.56 cm x 20.96 cm (14 x 8 1/4 in.)
Image: 6.5 x 5.2 cm (2 9/16 x 2 1/16 in.)
West Virginia University Libraries, West Virginia and Regional History Collection

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Unknown photographer. 'Sergeant Major John Wilson' June 3, 1864

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Unknown photographer
Sergeant Major John Wilson
June 3, 1864
Albumen print
Image: 9.1 cm x 5.8 cm (3 9/16 x 2 5/16 in.)
West Virginia University Libraries, West Virginia and Regional History Collection

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John Wilson, a painter from Cincinnati, Ohio, had this portrait made a month after he was promoted to sergeant major in May 1864. One of only five African American noncommissioned officers in the regiment at the time, Wilson proudly displayed his stripes and cap with its horn and the number “54.”

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Unknown photographer. 'Private James Matthew Townsend' 1863

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Unknown photographer
Private James Matthew Townsend
1863
Albumen print
Image: 8.6 cm x 5.8 cm (3 3/8 x 2 5/16 in.)
Collection of Greg French

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Abraham Bogardus. 'Major Martin Robison Delany' c. 1865

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Abraham Bogardus
Major Martin Robison Delany
c. 1865
Albumen print
Image: 8.6 cm x 5.3 cm (3 3/8 x 2 1/16 in.)
Courtesy of the National Park Service, Gettysburg National Military Park

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Martin Robison Delany (May 6, 1812 – January 24, 1885) was an African-American abolitionist, journalist, physician, and writer, arguably the first proponent of American black nationalism. He was one of the first three blacks admitted to Harvard Medical School. Trained as an assistant and a physician, he treated patients during the cholera epidemics of 1833 and 1854 in Pittsburgh, when many doctors and residents fled the city. Active in recruiting blacks for the United States Colored Troops, he was commissioned as a major, the first African-American field officer in the United States Army during the American Civil War. (Text from Wikipedia)

Abraham Bogardus (November 29, 1822 – March 22, 1908) was an American Daguerreotypist and photographer who made some 200,000 daguerreotypes during his career.

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Unknown photographer. 'Captain Norwood P. Hallowell' c. 1862-1863

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Unknown photographer
Captain Norwood P. Hallowell
c. 1862-1863
Albumen print
Overall: 10.16 x 6.35 cm (4 x 2 1/2 in.)
Image: 8.8 x 5.9 cm (3 7/16 x 2 5/16 in.)
Pamplin Historical Park and The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier
Courtesy of Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier

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Norwood Penrose “Pen” Hallowell (April 13, 1839 – April 11, 1914) was an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. One of three brothers to serve with distinction during the war, he and his brother Edward Needles Hallowell both became commanders of the first all-black regiments. He is also remembered for his close friendship with and influence upon future Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who was his classmate at Harvard and his comrade during the war.

Hallowell’s fervent abolitionism led him to volunteer for service in the Civil War, and he inspired Holmes to do the same. He was commissioned a first lieutenant on July 10, 1861, joining the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry with his brother, Edward, and Holmes. Hallowell fought in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff on October 21, 1861, in which he distinguished himself by leading a line of skirmishers to hold off Confederate forces. Hallowell then swam across the Potomac River, constructed a makeshift raft, and made several trips to the Virginia bank to rescue trapped Union soldiers before his raft fell apart. Hallowell was promoted to captain on November 26, 1861. He was wounded in the Battle of Glendale on June 30, 1862, and suffered more severe wounds in the Battle of Antietam on September 17. His left arm was shattered by a bullet but later saved by a surgeon; Holmes was shot in the neck. Both took refuge in a farmhouse (a historic site now known as the Royer-Nicodemus House and Farm) and were eventually evacuated.

On April 17, 1863, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, as second-in-command (after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw) of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first all-black regiments in the U.S. On May 30, he accepted Governor John A. Andrew’s personal request that he be made colonel in command of the 55th Massachusetts, another all-black regiment. He and his regiment were stationed at Charleston Harbor and participated in the siege and eventual taking of Fort Wagner; Hallowell was one of the first to enter the fort after its abandonment. Hallowell faced continuing disability due to his wounds, and was discharged on November 2, 1863. (Text from Wikipedia)

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3596-020-WEB

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J. E. Farwell and Co.
To Colored Men. 54th Regiment! Massachusetts Volunteers, of African Descent
1863
Ink on paper
Overall: 109.9 cm x 75.2 cm (43 1/4 x 29 5/8 in.)
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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The Massachusetts 54th Regiment was the first military unit consisting of black soldiers to be raised in the North during the Civil War. Prior to 1863, no concerted effort was made to recruit black troops as Union soldiers. At the beginning of the war, black men offered to serve as soldiers for the Union cause, however these offers were rejected by the military establishment and the country as a whole. A few makeshift regiments were raised – including the First South Carolina Regiment with whom the 54th Regiment would serve at Fort Wagner – however most were raised in the South and consisted primarily of escaped and abandoned slaves. (Footnote 1) The passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in December of 1862 provided the impetus for the use of free black men as soldiers and, at a time when state governors were responsible for the raising of regiments for federal service, Massachusetts was the first to respond with the formation of the 54th Regiment. (Footnote 2)

Soon after Governor John A. Andrew was allowed to begin recruiting black men for his newly formed 54th Regiment, Andrew realized the financial costs involved in such an undertaking and set out to raise money . He appointed George L. Stearns as the leader of the recruiting process, and also appointed the so-called “Black Committee” of prominent and influential citizens. The committee and those providing encouragement included Frederick Douglass, Amos A. Lawrence, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips, and $5000 was quickly raised for the cause. Newly appointed officers in the regiment also played an active part in the recruiting process. (Footnote 3)

An advertisement was placed in the Boston Journal for February 16, 1863 addressed “To Colored Men” recruiting “Good men of African descent.” It, like the recruiting posters, offered a “$100 bounty at the expiration of the term of service, pay $13 per month, and State aid for families”; it was signed by Lieutenant William J. Appleton of the 54th. (Footnote 4) Twenty-five men enlisted quickly, however the arrival of men at the recruiting stations and at Camp Meigs, Readville, soon slowed down. Stearns soon became aware that Massachusetts did not have enough eligible black men to fill a regiment and recruiters were sent to states throughout the North and South, and into Canada.

Pennsylvania proved to he a fertile source for recruits, with a major part of Company B coming from Philadelphia, despite recent race riots there. New Bedford and Springfield, Massachusetts, blacks made up the majority of Company C, while approximately seventy men recruited from western Massachusetts and Connecticut formed much of Company D. (Footnote 5) Stearns’s line of recruiting stations from Buffalo to St. Louis produced volunteers from New York, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Canada. Few of the men were former slaves; most were freemen working as seamen, farmers, laborers, or carpenters. By May 1863, the regiment was full with 1000 enlisted men and a full complement of white officers. The remaining recruits became the nucleus of the 55th Massachusetts Regiment, commanded by Norwood P. Hallowell, who, for a short time, had served as second-in-command to Robert Gould Shaw of the 54th.  (Footnote 6)

The question of pay to the volunteers became an important issue, even before the regiment’s departure from Boston on May 18. When Governor Andrew first proposed the idea to Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Andrew was assured that the men would be paid, clothed, and treated in the same way as white troops. As the recruiting posters and newspaper advertisements stated, this included a state bounty and a monthly pay of $13. In July of 1863, an order was issued in Washington fixing the compensation of black soldiers at the laborers’ rate of $10 per month. This amount was offered on several occasions to the men of the 54th, but was continually refused. Governor Andrew and the Massachusetts legislature, feeling responsible for the $3 discrepancy in pay promised to the troops, passed an act in November of 1863 providing the difference from state funds. The men refused to accept this resolution, however, demanding that they receive full soldier pay from the federal government. It was not until September of 1864 that the men of the 54th received any compensation for their valiant efforts, finally receiving their full pay since the time of enlistment, totalling $170,000. (Footnote 7) Each soldier was paid a $50 bounty before leaving Camp Meigs and this is the extent of the bounty that many received. By a later law, $325 was paid to some men, however most families received no State aid. (Footnote 8)

Although the Massachusetts 54th Regiment was the first to enlist black men as soldiers in the North, it was only the beginning for blacks as Union soldiers. By the end of the war, a total of 167 units, including other state regiments and the United States Colored Troops, wereraised, totaling 186,097 men of African descent recruited into federal service. (Footnote 9)

Text from the project Witness to America’s Past on the Massachusetts Historical Society Collections Online website

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Footnotes

1. Burchard, Peter. One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965, p. xi.

2. Hargrove, Hondon B. Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1988, p. xi.

3. Ibid., pp. 77-78.

4. Emilio, Luis F. History of the fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865. 2d ed. Boston Boston Book Co., 1894, pp. 8-9.

5. Ibid., pp. 9-10.

6. Burchard, Peter. One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965, pp. 83-90.

7. Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War.. 8 vols. Norwood, Mass.: Printed at The Norwood Press, 4:657.

8. Emilio, Luis F. History of the fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865. 2d ed. Boston Boston Book Co., pp. 327-328.

9. Hargrove, Hondon B. Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1988, p. 2.

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Augustus Saint-Gaudens. 'Shaw Memorial' 1900

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Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Shaw Memorial
1900
Patinated plaster
Overall (without armature or pedestal): 368.9 x 524.5 x 86.4 cm (145 1/4 x 206 1/2 x 34 in.)
Overall (with armature & pedestal): 419.1 x 524.5 x 109.2 cm (165 x 206 1/2 x 43 in.)
U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire, on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Art

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Even before the war’s end in April 1865, the courage and sacrifice that the 54th Massachusetts demonstrated at Fort Wagner inspired artists to commemorate their bravery. Two artists working in Boston, Edward Bannister and Edmonia Lewis, were among the first to pay homage to the 54th in works they contributed to a fair that benefited African American soldiers. Yet it was not until the late 19th century that Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial solidified the 54th as an icon of the Civil War in the American consciousness.

Commissioned by a group of private citizens, Saint-Gaudens first conceived the memorial as a single equestrian statue of Colonel Shaw, following a long tradition of military monuments. Shaw’s family, however, uncomfortable with the portrayal of their 25-year-old son in a fashion typically reserved for generals, urged Saint-Gaudens to rework his design. The sculptor revised his sketch to honor both the regiment’s famed hero and the soldiers he commanded – a revolutionary conception at the time. Saint-Gaudens worked on his memorial for 14 years, producing a plaster and a bronze version.

When the bronze was dedicated on Boston Common on Memorial Day 1897, Booker T. Washington declared that the monument stood “for effort, not victory complete.” After inaugurating the Boston memorial, Saint-Gaudens continued to modify the plaster, reworking the horse, the faces of the soldiers, and the appearance of the angel above them. The success of his final plaster earned the artist the grand prize for sculpture when it was shown at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris. It was installed at the National Gallery of Art in 1997, on long-term loan from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, and the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire. (Text from the National Gallery of Art website)

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Richard Benson. 'Robert Gould Shaw Memorial' 1973

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Richard Benson
Robert Gould Shaw Memorial
1973
Pigmented ink jet print
Image: 26 x 32.9 cm (10 1/4 x 12 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Susan and Peter MacGill
© Richard Benson. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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In 1973 Richard Benson and Lincoln Kirstein published Lay This Laurel, a book with photographs by Benson, an essay by Kirstein, and poems and writings by Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman, among others. It was intended to focus renewed attention on the bronze version of the Shaw Memorial on Boston Common, which had fallen into disrepair.

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Carrie Mae Weems. 'Restless After the Longest Winter You Marched & Marched & Marched' From the series, 'From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried' 1995-1996

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Carrie Mae Weems
Restless After the Longest Winter You Marched & Marched & Marched
From the series, From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried
1995-1996
Chromogenic color print with etched text on glass
Overall: 67.31 cm x 57.79 cm (26 1/2 x 22 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

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In this piece Carrie Mae Weems appropriated and altered one of Richard Benson’s photographs of the Shaw Memorial. Printed with a blood red filter, it is placed beneath glass etched with words that allude to African Americans’ quest for freedom and equal rights as well as their long struggle to attain them.

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William Earle Williams. 'Folly Beach, South Carolina, 1999' 1999

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William Earle Williams
Folly Beach, South Carolina, 1999
1999
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.05 cm x 19.05 cm (7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Mary and Dan Solomon Fund

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This photograph is part of William Earle Williams’ series Unsung Heroes: African American Soldiers in the Civil War, depicting locations where black troops served, fought, and died.

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National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 1000 am – 5.00 pm
Sunday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

National Gallery of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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