Posts Tagged ‘tintypes

02
Oct
16

Exhibition: ‘Sojourner Truth, Photography, and the Fight Against Slavery’ at The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), Berkeley

Exhibition dates: 27th July – 23rd October 2016

 

‘I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance’

Former New York slave Sojourner Truth (which literally means “itinerant preacher”) strategically deployed photography as a form of political activism. This deployment is part of a long tradition of photography being used in the African American struggle for political change, from before the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.

Standing six feet tall and speaking with a thick Dutch accent (due to her having been born of slave parents owned by a wealthy Dutch patroon in Ulster County, New York) Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-1883), the name she adopted on June 1, 1843, devoted her life to women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Driven by a deep religious conviction she was a evangelist, feminist and abolitionist who possessed enormous charisma – “Harriet Beecher Stowe attested to Truth’s personal magnetism, saying that she had never “been conversant with anyone who had more of that silent and subtle power which we call personal presence than this woman.”” During the Reconstruction period (1865-1877) after the American Civil War, “Truth barely supported herself by selling a narrative of her life as well as her “shadows,” photographs of herself.” (Sojourner Truth, Black History)

What is interesting, as author Nell Irvin Painter observes in the accompanying video in this posting, is how Truth controlled the dissemination of her own image – her shadow – as a means of self promotion. As the press release states, “Truth could not read or write, but she had her statements repeatedly published in the press, enthusiastically embraced new technologies such as photography, and went to court three times to claim her legal rights. Uniquely among portrait sitters, she had her photographic cartes de visite copyrighted in her own name and added the caption “’I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance’. Sojourner Truth,” foregrounding her self-selected proper name, her agency, and her possession of self.” As the exhibition brochure observes, “Sojourner Truth’s very terms, “substance” and “shadow,” were economic as well as photographic metaphors in the fierce debates about money: shadow was aligned with the abolition of slavery, substance with proslavery and anti-black sentiment. Sojourner Truth knew this opposition very well.” Her speech, authorship, and recourse to law coexist with her image.

Her possession of self is intimately tied to the photographic depiction of her bodily form. She sells the photograph to support the body and, as her agency, the images become a form of self-actualisation. In this sense the image that she controls becomes her holistic body, for she never displays her injured hand or the scars on her back that she were inflicted on her during slavery. These photographs are how she would like to see herself, how she portrays and promotes herself to others and for this reason they are amazing documents to study. What a human being, to have that perspicacious nature – from Latin perspicax, perspicac- ‘seeing clearly’ – to clearly see her place in the world and to clearly understand how to project her image into the world using new technologies such as photography. For someone who could not read or write this clear seeing in the use of photography at such an early time in the history of photography is almost incomparable.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 

Cicely Tyson performs Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t that a woman?”, originally delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.

 

 

Truth is powerful and it prevails.

I am not going to die, I’m going home like a shooting star.

Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.

If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.

It is the mind that makes the body.

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Sojourner Truth

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Carte de visite of Sojourner Truth with a photograph of her grandson, James Caldwell, on her lap' 1863

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Carte de visite of Sojourner Truth with a photograph of her grandson, James Caldwell, on her lap
1863
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

On July 4, 1863, in the National Anti-Slavery Standard, Truth announced her grandson’s enlistment in the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first all-black volunteer infantry. “Her faith is strong that God’s hand is in this war, and that it will end in the destruction of slavery, which day she hopes to live to see. The enlisting of the colored people she considers the most hopeful feature of the war.”

Truth was very proud of her grandson James Caldwell, whom she described as “a tall, able-bodied lad” determined to redeem white people from God’s curse and to save the nation. Truth also expressed her frustration that she herself could not lead “the colored troops”; instead she “can only send you her shadow.” Even at this early date, Sojourner Truth conceived of her “shadows” as the means to raise money. The article ends: “We are sure that many of our readers will thank us for informing them that Sojourner will send her photograph by mail to any one who will write her enclosing 50 cents and a 3-cent stamp. Letters to be directed to Battle Creek, Michigan.”

Sojourner Truth believed in paper and words: the paper currency created by the Federal government to support the war; the newspapers in which she had her letters published; the cartes de visite that she sold to support herself, labeled and copyrighted; the stamps that could send her paper photographs across the country to supporters; the tax stamps that the government required again to raise funds on behalf of the Union cause. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

 

Sojourner Truth: Quotes, Speech, Biography, Education, Facts, History (1996)

 

 

Synopsis

Born in New York circa 1797, Sojourner Truth 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, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. Her best-known speech on racial inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?” was delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.

Born into slavery

Born Isabella Baumfree circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was one of as many as 12 children born to James and Elizabeth Baumfree in the town of Swartekill, in Ulster County, New York. Truth’s date of birth was not recorded, as was typical of children born into slavery, but historians estimate that she was likely born around 1797. Her father, James Baumfree, was a slave captured in modern-day Ghana; Elizabeth Baumfree, also known as Mau-Mau Bet, was the daughter of slaves from Guinea. The Baumfree family was owned by Colonel Hardenbergh, and lived at the colonel’s estate in Esopus, New York, 95 miles north of New York City. The area had once been under Dutch control, and both the Baumfrees and the Hardenbaughs spoke Dutch in their daily lives.

After the colonel’s death, ownership of the Baumfrees passed to his son, Charles. The Baumfrees were separated after the death of Charles Hardenbergh in 1806. The 9-year-old Truth, known as “Belle” at the time, was sold at an auction with a flock of sheep for $100. Her new owner was a man named John Neely, whom Truth remembered as harsh and violent. She would be sold twice more over the following two years, finally coming to reside on the property of John Dumont at West Park, New York. It was during these years that Truth learned to speak English for the first time…

Fighting for abolition and women’s rights

On June 1, 1843, Isabella Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth, devoting her life to Methodism and the abolition of slavery. In 1844, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded by abolitionists, the organization supported a broad reform agenda including women’s rights and pacifism. Members lived together on 500 acres as a self-sufficient community. Truth met a number of leading abolitionists at Northampton, including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and David Ruggles.

Although the Northampton community disbanded in 1846, Sojourner Truth’s career as an activist and reformer was just beginning…

Advocacy during the Civil War

Sojourner Truth put her reputation to work during the Civil War, helping to recruit black troops for the Union Army. She encouraged her grandson, James Caldwell, to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. In 1864, Truth was called to Washington, D.C., to contribute to the National Freedman’s Relief Association. On at least one occasion, Truth met and spoke with President Abraham Lincoln about her beliefs and her experience.

True to her broad reform ideals, Truth continued to agitate for change even after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. In 1865, Truth attempted to force the desegregation of streetcars in Washington by riding in cars designated for whites. A major project of her later life was the movement to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves. She argued that ownership of private property, and particularly land, would give African Americans self-sufficiency and free them from a kind of indentured servitude to wealthy landowners. Although Truth pursued this goal forcefully for many years, she was unable to sway Congress.

Death and legacy

Sojourner Truth died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 26, 1883. She is buried alongside her family at Battle Creek’s Oak Hill Cemetery. Until old age intervened, Truth continued to speak passionately on the subjects of women’s rights, universal suffrage and prison reform. She was also an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, testifying before the Michigan state legislature against the practice. She also championed prison reform in Michigan and across the country. While always controversial, Truth was embraced by a community of reformers including Amy Post, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony – friends with whom she collaborated until the end of her life.

Truth is remembered as one of the foremost leaders of the abolition movement and an early advocate of women’s rights. Although she began her career as an abolitionist, the reform causes she sponsored were broad and varied, including prison reform, property rights and universal suffrage. Abolition was one of the few causes that Truth was able to see realized in her lifetime. Her fear that abolitionism would falter before achieving equality for women proved prophetic.

Text from “Sojourner Truth Biography: Civil Rights Activist, Women’s Rights Activist (c. 1797-1883),” on Biography.com website [Online] Cited 28/09/2016

 

Unknown photographer. 'Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth' (front) 1864

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth (front)
1864
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

In 1864 Truth began to inscribe her cartes de visite with a caption, her name, and a copyright: “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance. SOJOURNER TRUTH.” Truth’s use of the first-person present tense “I sell” declares her ownership of her image: to sell it, she must own it. Most significantly, by using this caption Sojourner Truth knowingly aligned her photographs with paper money.

Sojourner Truth’s very terms, “substance” and “shadow,” were economic as well as photographic metaphors in the fierce debates about money: shadow was aligned with the abolition of slavery, substance with proslavery and anti-black sentiment. Sojourner Truth knew this opposition very well. She was making cheap paper notes, printed and reproduced in multiples, featuring her portrait. She had invented her own kind of paper currency, and for the same reasons as the government: in order to produce wealth dependent on a consensus that representation produces material results, to make money where there was none, and to do so partly in order to abolish slavery.

During the Civil War, a ferocious debate raged about whether paper could represent value like coin. Paper greenbacks – the first federally issued banknotes in American history – were attacked by those who believed that money was not a representation but a “substance.” Hard money advocates (naively) believed that gold was value, not its representation…. Like paper bills, cartes de visite functioned during these years as currency and as clandestine political tokens.

The photographs of Sojourner Truth register only her appearance, not her commanding presence. They are shadows, and some are more elusive and mute than others. Yet the printed words – name, caption, and copyright – remain forthright: her speech, authorship, and recourse to law coexist with her image. Those printed words force us to acknowledge the illiterate woman’s authorship, as well as her eloquence, her agency, and her legal claim to property, even as we value these humble objects. [The image above and verso below] is one of two known cartes de visite of Sojourner Truth that bear not only the caption, name, and copyright, but also a tax stamp that dates the photograph to 1864. Tax stamps were created to raise money for the Union cause, although they were attached to only a very small percentage of purchased photographs.

In all her seated portraits, Truth carefully chose the items she held in her lap: initially, the photograph of her heroic missing grandson and thereafter, her knitting. We must take her choices seriously. During the Civil War knitting acquired new patriotic connotations. No longer merely a feminine domestic art, knitting had become a public duty; newspapers published pleas for sewing and knitting societies to devote themselves to serving the cause.

During the Civil War, Truth was determined to teach her skills to the emancipated slaves, often Southern field hands, living in Freedmen’s Villages. A Union officer reported that Truth would say, “Be clean, be clean, for cleanliness is a part of godliness.” He paraphrased Truth’s beliefs: “[T]hey must learn to be independent – learn industry and economy – and above all strive to show people that they could be something. She urged them to embrace for their children all opportunities of education and advancement. In fact, she talked to them as a white person could not, for they would have been offended with such plain truths from any other source […] She goes into their cabins with her knitting in her hand, and while she talks with them she knits. Few of them know how to knit, and but few know how to make a loaf of bread, or anything of the kind. She wants to teach the old people how to knit, for they have no employment, and they will be much happier if usefully employed.”

Truth associated knitting with industry and advancement, not gentility. With real savvy, she informally introduced the craft to freed slaves by demonstrating the skill, not just telling her audience to learn it. The many cartes de visite that feature her knitting sustain this demonstration. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer. 'Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth' (back) 1864

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth (back)
1864
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth' c. 1864-65

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite of Sojourner Truth
c. 1864-65
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

“The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) presents , on view July 27 through October 23, 2016. The exhibition features a large selection of photographic cartes de visite of the famed former slave, as well as other Civil War–era photographs and Federal currency, none of which have been exhibited before.

The exhibition is organized by Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley and author of “Enduring Truths. Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance” (University of Chicago Press, 2015), the first book to explore how Truth used her image, the press, the postal service, and copyright laws to support her activism and herself. Many of the photographs included in the exhibition were a recent gift from Professor Grigsby to BAMPFA.

Runaway slave Sojourner Truth gained renown in the nineteenth century as an abolitionist, feminist, and orator. This exhibition showcases the photographic carte de visite portraits of Truth that she sold at lectures and by mail as a way of making a living. First invented by French photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri in 1854, cartes de visite are similar in size to the calling cards that preceded them, approximately two-and one-half by four inches, and consist of albumen photographs made from glass negatives glued onto cardboard mounts. By the end of the 1850s, the craze for the relatively inexpensive cartes de visite had reached the United States. Americans who could never have afforded a portrait could now have their likeness memorialized. Combined with the emergence of the new US postal system, these cards appealed to a vast nation of dispersed peoples.

Truth could not read or write, but she had her statements repeatedly published in the press, enthusiastically embraced new technologies such as photography, and went to court three times to claim her legal rights. Uniquely among portrait sitters, she had her photographic cartes de visite copyrighted in her own name and added the caption “’I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance’. Sojourner Truth,” foregrounding her self-selected proper name, her agency, and her possession of self.

This exhibition places Truth’s cartes de visite in context by reconstructing the flood of paper —federal banknotes, photographs, letters, autographs, stamps, prints, and newspapers —that created political communities across the immense distances of the nation during the Civil War. Like the federal government that resorted to the printing of paper currency to finance the war against slavery, Truth was improvising new ways of turning paper into value in order to finance her activism as an abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights.

Sojourner Truth, Photography, and the Fight Against Slavery is organized by Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley, with the assistance of UC Berkeley undergraduate Ryan Serpa. The photographs included in the exhibition were a recent gift from Professor Grigsby to BAMPFA.”

Press release from the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

 

W. Arren (American) 'Carte de visite of Frederick Douglass' c. 1879

 

W. Arren (American, photographer/publisher?)
Carte de visite of Frederick Douglass
c. 1879
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
Courtesy Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement from Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.

Douglass wrote several autobiographies. He described his experiences as a slave in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). After the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. First published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his death, it covered events during and after the Civil War. Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.

Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the American Constitution. When radical abolitionists under the motto “No Union With Slaveholders”, criticized Douglass’ willingness to dialogue with slave owners, he famously replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

Frederick Douglass was also a runaway slave and eloquent abolitionist. Douglass and Truth both believed in the liberatory power of modernization and both were confident that the new medium of photography would contribute to their society’s redefinition of the status of black men and women. Of all modern inventions, photography, Douglass argued, would have the most far-reaching impact. He devoted two public lectures to photography, in 1861 and 1865, arguing that self-possession requires recognition from others. Douglass had 160 portraits made between 1841 and 1895. Like most sitters and unlike Truth, Douglass allowed the photographer’s name to be printed at the bottom of this carte de visite instead of his own. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Carte de visite of John Sharper' c. 1863

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Carte de visite of John Sharper
c. 1863
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

John N. Sharper, a printer by trade, enlisted in the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment (Colored) at Providence, Rhode Island on October 30, 1863. He was listed as being 5-foot8, of “dark complexion,” with black hair and black eyes. He was born in New York State about 1841. He signed his own enlistment papers. The 14th Rhode Island was later re-designated the 11th U.S. Colored Artillery.

Sharper was born at Herkimer, New York (west of Albany) on May 24, 1841. In 1860, at age 18, he was still living in Herkimer with his parents, Samuel and Jane, and working as a printer’s apprentice. Sharper’s unit was assigned to the Department of the Gulf, where its elements were stationed in New Orleans, Port Hudson, Brashear City (now Morgan City), Louisiana and Fort Esperanza on Matagorda Island, Texas. In the winter of 1864-65 Sharper was detached from his unit to work at post headquarters as a printer. Sharper was discharged for disability at New Orleans on September 11, 1865 for phthisis pulmonalis, another term for consumption or tuberculosis. He died on April 5, 1866, and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Herkimer.

His parents, Samuel and Jane, applied for a pension on as dependents of his. There is a page on Ancestry that shows Sharper married to an Esther Thomas (c. 1846 to c. 1929), but cites no documentation. (Text from the Civil War Talk website)

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The Bureau of United States Colored Troops was established as a separate office within the War Department on May 22, 1863. Maj. Charles W. Foster was appointed the bureau chief, with the title assistant adjutant general. African-descent regiments organized before the new bureau was established were not the first regiments mustered into the Bureau of United States Colored Troops. Most would retain their state designation until 1864, when they would be designated United States Colored Troops. In June 1863, the first regiment was officially mustered into the Bureau of United States Colored Troops. Organized in Washington, D.C., the regiment was designated the 1st United States Colored Infantry. (Text from the Civil War Trust website)

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According to government archives, by the end of the Civil War some 179,000 black men had served in the US Army (constituting 10% of the Union Army) and 19,000 had served in the US Navy. 40,000 died during the war, often from infection and disease. When Sojourner Truth made the photograph in which she displays a framed portrait of her grandson, who had just joined the first all-black regiment, she offered an alternative to images, such as Nast’s, that mocked and emasculated the black men and boys who fought to end slavery. Photographic portraits made counterarguments, showing us alert and serious black men, even boys, who were determined to fix their likenesses as soldiers willing to lose their lives to win the war against slavery.

Portraits can socially elevate but painted portraits were not affordable for the majority of Americans. Nineteenth-century photography, especially cartes de visite and tintypes, brought portraiture within the reach of many more people. African Americans seized the opportunity to have their “likeness” made. Tintypes also made it possible to adorn sitters with precious gold jewelry applied as strokes of paint. Glistening paint ornamented sitters with sparkling accessories – gold rings, necklaces, buttons, military belt buckles – and fancy ornamental enclosures framed persons as worthy. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Carte de visite of amputee on chair' late-19th century

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Carte de visite of amputee on chair
late-19th century
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

J. W. Black (American, photographer) 'Captioned carte de visite of Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence' 1863

 

J. W. Black (American, photographer)
Captioned carte de visite of Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence
1863

 

 

Several extensive series of cartes de visite were made of rescued slave children, especially those who appeared to be white like this child, Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence.

In the cartes de visite of the “redeemed slave child” Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence, captions make claims to possession of the child and her portrait, claims problematically resem- bling slavery. If Sojourner Truth boldly filed a copyright in her own name, the 1863 copyright on these photographs is in the name of the child’s “redeemer,” Catherine S. Lawrence, who gave the fair-skinned little girl her surname (and also had her baptized by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother, Henry Ward Beecher). Catherine Lawrence had Fannie photographed at least a dozen times in a wide range of costumes and settings. Although most cartes show her lavishly dressed, one unusual example shows the little girl barefoot, as if in transition from her status as poor slave to affluent and “passing” adoptee. Like the word “redeem” itself, this carte de visite combines Christian, economic, and legal claims. Its extremely unusual copyright betrays the financial transaction that redefined the “redeemed” slave child as adoptee. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Captioned carte de visite of Frank, Frederick, and Alice' 1865

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite of Frank, Frederick, and Alice
1865

 

 

On back: “The CHILDREN OF THE BATTLE FIELD. This is a copy of the Ferrotype found in the hands of Sergeant Humiston of the 154th N.Y. Volunteers as he lay dead on the Battle Field of Gettysburg. The copies are sold in furtherance of the National Sabbath School effort to found in Pennsylvania an Asylum for dependent Orphans of Soldiers; in memorial of our Perpetuated Union. Wenderoth, Taylor & Brown, 912-914 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. This picture is private property, and can not be copied without wronging the Soldier’s Orphans for whom it is published. Philadelphia, Sept. 23, 1865. J. Frances Bourns.

As the text on the back of this card makes clear, this portrait of beloved offspring had initially been found without names on the body of an unidentified fallen soldier. The photograph was reproduced and circulated as a carte de visite in order to determine the soldier’s identity. This early form of mass communication ultimately worked and his family was found. Subsequently, new cartes de visite included the children’s names, Frank, Frederick, and Alice, and were circulated in order to raise money on behalf of a school for orphans. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Portrait of a Marshall Bachelder and Cornelia (Weatherby) Bachelder' c. 1865

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Portrait of a Marshall Bachelder and Cornelia (Weatherby) Bachelder
c. 1865
Tintype with hand-coloring
6 1/2 x 8 3/8 in.
Courtesy Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

“Marshall Bachelder was born in Holly, Orleans, NY state, August 31, 1835, and died July 30, 1921. He came to Michigan at the age of 17 with his parents and settled on a farm in Greenbush township, Clinton County. He enlisted in the 8th Michigan Infantry in 1861 and served until the end of the war. He was married to Cornelia Weatherby in 1864, who survives him.” (as of 1921).

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Cartes de visite were multiples and allowed sitters to share their portraits with others, sometimes sending them by mail. By contrast, tintypes were unique images like daguerreotypes, but far less expensive. This haunting hand-colored tintype portrait of a couple contrasts a remarkably vivid young woman with a pale ghost-like soldier whose body, hair, and eyes have been drawn in. Whether his image was radically retouched in order to dress him in uniform is unclear from the photograph itself. Tintypes were made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal covered with a dark lacquer or enamel – they were unique direct images (no negatives were used). (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'A group of Contrabands at Haxall's Mill, Richmond, Virginia, on June 9, 1865' (detail) 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
A group of Contrabands at Haxall’s Mill, Richmond, Virginia, on June 9, 1865 (detail)
1865
Stereo view

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'The Innocent Cause of the War' (stereo view detail) c. 1865

 

Unknown photographer (American)
The Innocent Cause of the War (stereo view detail)
c. 1865
Courtesy of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby
Stereo view

 

 

A Union soldier looks at a young black boy in tattered clothing leaning on a pole at left. The caption turns the boy into “the innocent cause” for which the Civil War was fought. Stereo views were two photographs made from slightly separated lenses, reproducing the two-and-one-half-inch distance between our eyes; when seen through a viewer, they suggest three-dimensional space. Fairly inexpensive, they were very popular from the Civil War era through the early twentieth century. Stereo views were collected by individuals, and they also served as educational tools in schools and libraries. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Carte de visite (Donation Cake)' late-19th century

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Carte de visite (Donation Cake)
late-19th century
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
Courtesy Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

Little is known about this Civil War carte de visite except that it commemorates fundraising, a bake sale from one hundred and fifty years ago.

 

Sayre and Chase (American) 'Pro-Union carte de visite commemorating the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and Generals Charles Robert Woods and William Burnham Woods' c. 1865

 

Sayre and Chase (Newark, Ohio)
Pro-Union carte de visite commemorating the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and Generals Charles Robert Woods and William Burnham Woods
c. 1865
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

Most cartes de visite were portraits but some represented the war, depicting landscapes, battle sites, military prisons, and still lifes. This carte, made by Sayre and Chase of Newark, Ohio, displays the scarred battle flag of the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry as well as a sword, scabbard, and officer’s sash hanging from a line perfunctorily stretched across the studio. Leaning against the floorboards are two large, framed albumen photographs of Union generals, Charles Robert Woods (at right), who organized the 76th Ohio, and his brother William Burnham Woods. Both survived the war, and astonishingly both became Supreme Court justices. Within this scene, the framed photographic portraits are not cartes de visite but larger prints deemed worthy of frames, not merely inclusion in an album. Photography’s registration of “what has been” (its indexicality) serves as a form of evidence: here scarred inanimate objects testify to the violence of war and connote both courage and suffering. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

The 76th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry (or 76th OVI) was an infantry regiment of the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment served in the Western Theater, primarily as part of the XV Corps in the Army of the Tennessee.

During its term of service, the 76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry participated in forty-four battles. While 270 men, including five officers, died from disease or accidents, an additional ninety-one men, including nine officers, received mortal wounds. Beyond these deaths, another 241 men suffered battlefield wounds but survived.

Charles Robert Woods (February 19, 1827 – February 26, 1885) was a career United States Army officer and a Union general during the American Civil War. He is noted for commanding the relief troops that first attempted to resupply Fort Sumter prior to the start of the conflict, and served with distinction during the war.

William Burnham Woods (August 3, 1824 – May 14, 1887) was a United States Circuit Judge and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court as well as an Ohio politician and soldier in the Civil War.

 

J.P. Soule (American) 'Captioned carte de visite (Emancipation)' c. 1863

 

J.P. Soule (American, photographer)
John Sowle (publisher)
Captioned carte de visite (Emancipation)
c. 1863
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

The women abolitionists of Indiana who selected the costume Truth wears in the adjacent photograph (no. 5) may have been inspired by pictures of female personifications carrying flags. For example, this carte de visite, entitled Emancipation, personifies the nation as a white woman who wraps an immense flag around two kneeling slaves.

 

 

The printing press

During the Civil War, the printing press itself came to stand for the Republican cause. The printing of money was even represented in a number of cartes de visite. Rightly paranoid that his paper reproduction could be mistaken for a counterfeit bill despite its smaller size, the printer of the “Twenty-Dollar Bill” fills the card’s back with text establishing its credentials as an authorized – and copyrighted – “souvenir.”

In The Northern Star, four photographically reproduced, wrinkled one-dollar bills and one two-dollar bill rotate around the mirroring heads of Salmon Chase – Secretary of the Treasury, Republican, and abolitionist – and Abraham Lincoln. Between the two men’s heads at the center of the card is a barely comprehensible poem that ends with the line: “And Chase the money makes you know.” In the spatial configuration of the image, Chase is the Northern Star, the moneymaker, yet the inverse is true as well: the money makes you know Chase. Each one-dollar bill spinning around the central axis features his profile portrait. By contrast The Southern Cross mocks the Confederacy for its lack of “change” to “meet their bills.”

Sojourner Truth was making a form of paper currency and her cheap paper notes, printed and reproduced in multiples, featured her portrait. This was no insignificant achievement. Like Chase she had put her face on paper that stood for economic value; like Chase she was publicizing her self and her politics with her portrait. Truth had invented her own kind of paper money and for the same reasons as the Republican government: in order to produce wealth dependent on a consensus that representation produces material results, to make money where there was none, and to do so partly in order to abolish slavery. (Text from the exhibition brochure)

 

Unknown photographer (American) 'Captioned carte de visite (Learning is Wealth. Wilson, Charley, Rebecca & Rosa, Slaves from New Orleans)' c. 1864

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Captioned carte de visite (Learning is Wealth. Wilson, Charley, Rebecca & Rosa, Slaves from New Orleans)
c. 1864
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
4 x 2 1/2 in.
Courtesy Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

 

 

Part of the fundraising series devoted to the freed slaves of New Orleans, this carte de visite poses the formerly enslaved adult Wilson Chinn reading to Charley, Rebecca, and Rosa, freed children. Especially poignant is another paler, most likely later version, in which the caption is misspelled as ‘Lerning is Wealth’. Wealth, the caption proposes, derives from literacy, not slavery. Other cartes de visite of Wilson Chinn emphasize his abuse under slavery, displaying menacing chains at his feet and branded letters on his forehead, his former owner’s initials: “V. B. M.” The letters on Chinn’s forehead turn him into surface on which is inscribed the literacy of others. In this carte Wilson’s head is turned so we do not see that the man who reads from a book is likewise inscribed as a text; none of the children look to the alternative printing on his forehead.

 

 

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

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between Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue, in downtown Berkeley
Phone: (510) 642-0808

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Friday and Saturday, 11 am – 9 pm

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31
Jul
16

Exhibition: ‘Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph’ at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth, New Zealand Part 1

Exhibition dates: 29th April – 14 August 2016

Curator: Geoffrey Batchen

 

 

This is how best a contemporary art exhibition can show the work to advantage. Just gorgeous!

The well curated, comprehensive content is complemented by a beautifully paced hang nestled within stunning contemporary art spaces. Labels are not just plonked on the wall, but are discretely displayed on horizontal shelves next to the work – accessible but so as not to interrupt the flow of the work. Coloured walls add to the ambience of the installation and act as an adjunct to the colours of the art. Beautiful modernist contemporary display cabinets keep the spaces fresh and vibrant.

A discussion of the content of the exhibition to follow in part 2 of the posting.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images are photographed by Bryan James.

 

 

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“Exploring the art of cameraless photography, encompassing historical, modern and contemporary works. Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph is the first comprehensive survey of cameraless photography held anywhere in the world, presenting more than 200 examples, from 1839 – when photography’s invention was announced – through to contemporary artists. We present the most complete study of cameraless photography to date, focusing on the cameraless mode from the 1830s through to today and offering a global perspective on this way of working.

The theme of the exhibition is inspired by artist Len Lye’s cameraless photographs from 1930 and 1947, and it’s the first time all 52 of Lye’s photograms have been seen together. Emanations is an opportunity to put Lye’s photographic work in a suitably global context, surrounded by his predecessors, contemporaries and successors. Emanations includes many masterpieces of photographic art and showcases the talents of some of the world’s leading contemporary photographic artists.

The exhibition has work by photographic pioneers William Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins, important modernist photographers Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy, and many of today’s most significant photographic artists including Walead Beshty, Marco Breuer, Liz Deschenes, Joan Fontcuberta, Christian Marclay, Thomas Ruff, and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Emanations also includes work by both senior and emerging Australian and New Zealand artists, from Anne Noble and Anne Ferran to Andrew Beck and Justine Varga.

The exhibition presents artwork by more than 50 artists hailing from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, England, Canada and the United States. Almost every photographic process is included in the exhibition – photogenic drawings, calotypes, daguerreotypes, and tintypes, as well as gelatin silver, chromogenic and ink-jet photographic prints, photocopies, verifax and thermal prints.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major book by the same name and on the same theme, co-published by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and DelMonico Books/Prestel, based in New York and Munich. The book contains 184 full-page colour plates and a 25,000 word essay by Geoffrey Batchen. The Govett-Brewster is also publishing another book reproducing all the cameraless photographs by Len Lye, along with an essay by Wystan Curnow.

Emanations is curated by Geoffrey Batchen, Professor of Art History at Victoria University of Wellington, and a world-renowned historian and curator of photography.”

Text from the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of Andrew Beck ‘Double Screen’ 2016 part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of Andrew Beck ‘Double Screen’ 2016 part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of Andrew Beck ‘Double Screen’ 2016 part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation views of
Andrew Beck (Canada/New Zealand)
Double Screen
2016
Glass, acrylic paint, gelatin silver photographs

 

In the 1930s, László Moholy-Nagy made art that combined a cameraless photograph, plexiglass and paint. New Zealand artist Andrew Beck works in a similar way to produce sculptural installations that complicate our expectations of the relationship between light and shadow, the natural and the artificial, images and objects, art and reality. He forces us to look very closely at what we are seeing, and even to critically reflect on the act of seeing itself.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at left, Anne Ferran and at right, Joyce Campbell

 

Installation view of Joyce Campbell ‘LA Bloom’ 2002 part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of
Joyce Campbell (New Zealand/US)
LA Bloom
2002
Cibachrome photographs
Courtesy of the artist, Auckland

 

In 2002 the New Zealand photographer Joyce Campbell decided to conduct a microbial survey of Los Angeles, a city in which she lives for part of each year. She swabbed the surfaces of plants and soil from twenty-seven locations chosen out of her Thomas Guide to the city. She then transferred each sample onto a sterilized plexiglass plate of agar and allowed it to grow as a living culture. The cibachrome positive colour contact prints she subsequently made from these plates resemble abstract paintings and yet also offer a critical mapping of the relative fertility of this particular urban landscape, revealing its dependence on the politics of water distribution.

 

Installation view of Aldo Tambellini (Italy/US) 'Videograms' 1969

 

Installation view of
Aldo Tambellini
(Italy/US)
Videogram, 1969
Videogram, 1969
Videogram, 1969
Videogram, 1969
Gelatin silver photographs

 

Although raised in Italy, Aldo Tambellini was working in New York in 1969 when he manipulated the cathode ray tube of a TV set into the shape of a spiral (for this artist, a universal sign of energy) and exposed sheets of light-sensitive paper by laying them over its screen. The calligraphic inscriptions that resulted made his paper look as if it had been scorched from the inside out. These ‘videograms,’ as Tambellini called them, highlight the chaos and chance operations that lurk just beneath the surface of technology’s apparent rationality.

 

Installation view of Shaun Waugh (New Zealand) 'ΔE2000 1.1' 2014 part of the exhibition of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of Shaun Waugh (New Zealand) 'ΔE2000 1.1' 2014 part of the exhibition of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of Shaun Waugh (New Zealand) 'ΔE2000 1.1' 2014 part of the exhibition of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation views of
Shaun Waugh (New Zealand)
ΔE2000 1.1
2014
24 Agfa boxes with mounted solid colour inkjet photographs

 

This work by New Zealand artist Shaun Waugh began with the purchase of empty boxes that once held Agfa photographic paper. Waugh then took readings of all four sides of the inside lip of each box lid using a spectrophotometer, employing this data and Photoshop to generate a solid orange-red inkjet print. The box lid is used to frame a two-dimensional version of itself, bringing analogue and digital printing into an uncomfortably close proximity to create a memorial to a kind of photography that is now defunct. Hung salon style, like so many small paintings, Waugh’s work manages to turn the photograph inside out, and thus into something other than itself.

 

Wall text from the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Wall text from the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with, at left, Anne Ferran and, at right, Adam Fuss

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at left, Anne Ferran and at right, Adam Fuss

 

Installation view of the work of Anne Ferran

 

Installation view of
Anne Ferran (Australia)
Untitled, 1998
Untitled, 1998
Untitled, 1998
Untitled (baby’s petticoat), 1998
Untitled (collar), 1998
Untitled (baby’s bonnet), 1998
Untitled (sailor suit), 1998
Untitled (shirts), 1998

Unique gelatin silver photographs

 

In 1998 Australian artist Anne Ferran was offered an artist-in-resident’s position at an historic homestead not far from Sydney that had been occupied by successive generations of the same family since 1813. Ferran spent six months systematically making contact prints using the dresses, bodices, skirts, petticoats, and collars still contained in the house. Hovering in a surrounding darkness, softly radiating an inner light, the ghostly traces of these translucent garments now act as residual filaments for a century of absorbed sunshine. Many of them have been patched over the years and their signs of wear and repair are made clear. This allows us to witness a history of the use of each piece of clothing, seeing inside them to those small and skilful acts of home economy – the labour of women – usually kept hidden from a public gaze.

 

Anne Ferran (Australia) 'Untitled (baby's bonnet)' 1998

 

Anne Ferran (Australia)
Untitled (baby’s bonnet)
1998
Unique gelatin silver photograph

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with, at left, Adam Fuss and, at right, Lisa Clunie

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at left, Adam Fuss and at right, Lisa Clunie

 

installation view of Adam Fuss (UK/Australia/US) ‘Caduceus’ 2010 (left) and ‘Untitled’ 1991 (right)

 

Installation view of Adam Fuss (UK/Australia/US) Caduceus 2010 (left) and Untitled 1991 (right)

 

Born in England, raised in Australia, and resident in New York, Adam Fuss has produced a diverse range of large cameraless photographs since the 1980s, asking his light-sensitive paper to respond to the physical presence of such phenomena as light, water, a slithering snake, flocks of birds, and sunflowers.

 

Adam Fuss (UK/Australia/US) 'Untitled' 1991

 

Adam Fuss (UK/Australia/US)
Untitled
1991
Type C photograph

 

Lisa Clunie (New Zealand) ‘Fold I’ 2014

 

Lisa Clunie (New Zealand)
Fold I
2014
Silver gelatin photograph

 

The work of New Zealand artist Lisa Clunie looks back to the work of pioneer modernist László Moholy-Nagy in order to manifest the idea that our lives are shaped by a continual play of forces. Like Moholy, she wets her photographic paper and then tightly folds it, before moving the paper back and forth under her enlarger, selectively exposing these folds to the ‘force’ of light. The resulting work reminds us that a photograph has weight, surface, texture, tension and edges.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at right, the work of Robert L. Buelteman

 

Installation view of Robert L. Buelteman. ‘Cannabis sativa’ 2002 (left) and ‘Eucalyptus polyanthemos’ 2000 (right)

 

Installation view of
Robert L. Buelteman (US)
Cannabis sativa (left)
2002
Digital chromogenic development photograph

Robert L. Buelteman (US)
Eucalyptus polyanthemos (right)
2002
Digital chromogenic development photograph

 

The San-Franciscan artist Robert Buelteman takes his leaves and other botanical specimens and slices them into paper-thin sections, before charging them, in a complicated and dangerous process, with a pulse of 40,000 volts of electricity. This leaves behind a colorized trace on his photographic paper, a photogram in which these plants appear to be aflame, as if emitting an energy all their own. Hovering between life and death, this is a nature that seems to be on the cusp of its transmutation into something else entirely.

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at centre, Robert Owen and at right, Joan Fontcuberta

 

Robert Owen (Australia) ‘Endings (Rothko died today) - Kodachrome 64, No. 21, 26/02/1970’ 2009

 

Robert Owen (Australia)
Endings (Rothko died today) – Kodachrome 64, No. 21, 26/02/1970
2009
Pigment ink-jet print

 

The photographic work of Australian artist Robert Owen is part of a broader tendency on the part of contemporary artists to reflect in morbid terms on aspects of photography’s past. Owen has been collecting film stubs since 1968. Although better known as a painter and sculptor, he recently decided to print these end strips of film as a series of large colour photographs, paying homage to this residue of the Kodak era in a chronological sequence of readymade chromatic fields. This one was collected on the day that the American abstract painter Mark Rothko killed himself.

 

Adam Fuss (UK/Australia/US) 'Untitled' (from the series 'My Ghost') 2001

 

Adam Fuss (UK/Australia/US)
Untitled (from the series My Ghost)
2001
Unique gelatin silver photograph

 

In his series, titled My Ghost, Adam Fuss put together a body of contact photographs of such things as plumes of smoke, patterns of light, a butterfly, a swan and a baptism dress. As his title suggests, Fuss’s work aims to evoke rather than describe; for all their evident tactility, these photographs are meant as metaphors, as prayers, perhaps even as poems.

 

Adam Fuss both 'Untitled' 1989

 

Installation view of
Adam Fuss (UK/Australia/US)
Untitled
1989
Cibachrome photograph

Adam Fuss (UK/Australia/US)
Untitled
1989
Cibachrome photograph

 

Installation view of Joan Fontcuberta (Spain). ‘MN 62: OPHIUCUS (NGC 6266), AR 17 h. 01,2 min. / D -30º 07’’ (left) and ‘LAMBDA CORONAE AUSTRALIS (Mags 5,1/9,7 Sepn 29,2" AP 214º), AR 18 h 43,8 min. / D -38º 19’’ (right) both 1993

Installation view of Joan Fontcuberta (Spain). ‘MN 62: OPHIUCUS (NGC 6266), AR 17 h. 01,2 min. / D -30º 07’’ (left) and ‘LAMBDA CORONAE AUSTRALIS (Mags 5,1/9,7 Sepn 29,2" AP 214º), AR 18 h 43,8 min. / D -38º 19’’ (right) both 1993

 

Installation views of
Joan Fontcuberta (Spain)
MN 62: OPHIUCUS (NGC 6266), AR 17 h. 01,2 min. / D -30º 07′ (left)
LAMBDA CORONAE AUSTRALIS (Mags 5,1/9,7 Sepn 29,2″ AP 214º), AR 18 h 43,8 min. / D -38º 19′ (right)
both 1993
From the Constellations series
Cibachrome photographs

 

Photographs from the Constellations series by Spanish artist Joan Fontcuberta come filled with fields of sparkling blackness, their speckled surfaces redolent of infinite space and twinkling stars. Their titles imply we are looking upwards towards the heavens. But this artist’s prints actually record dust, crushed insects and other debris deposited on the windscreen of his car, a trace of the evidence of his own rapid passage through terrestrial space and time. The artist applied sheets of 8-by-10-inch film directly onto the glass windscreen and shone a light through, creating photograms which were then made into glossy cibachrome prints.

 

Installation view of Paul Hartigan (New Zealand) 'Colourwords' 1980-81 as part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of Paul Hartigan (New Zealand) 'Colourwords' 1980-81 as part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Detail of Paul Hartigan (New Zealand) 'Colourwords' 1980-81 as part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Detail of Paul Hartigan (New Zealand) 'Colourwords' 1980-81 as part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Detail of Paul Hartigan (New Zealand) 'Colourwords' 1980-81 as part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Detail of Paul Hartigan (New Zealand) 'Colourwords' 1980-81 as part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Detail of Paul Hartigan (New Zealand) 'Colourwords' 1980-81 as part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation views and detail of
Paul Hartigan (New Zealand)
Colourwords
1980-81
Colour photocopy

 

Consistently defined by a subversive edge and a darkly witty humour, the work of New Zealand artist Paul Hartigan is often subtly permeated by astute social and political perceptions. Shortly after they were introduced into New Zealand in 1980, Hartigan explored the creative possibilities of a colour photocopying machine, making a series of images in which words and found objects ironically refer to each other in an endless loop. With the objects arranged to spell out their own colour, each picture offers an oscillation of word and meaning, flatness and dimension, art and detritus.

 

Installation view of Gavin Hipkins (New Zealand) ‘The Coil’ 1998 (left) and Lucinda Eva-May as part of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of Gavin Hipkins (left) and Lucinda Eva-May (right) as part of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of Gavin Hipkins (New Zealand) ‘The Coil’ 1998

 

Installation view of
Gavin Hipkins (New Zealand)
The Coil
1998
Silver gelatin photographs

 

Inspired by the kinetic films of Len Lye, in the 1990s Gavin Hipkins made a series of cameraless photographs that play with sequence and implied movement. The 32 images that make up The Coil were made by resting polystyrene rings on sheets of photographic paper and then exposing them to light.

 

Installation view of Lucinda Eva-May (Australia) 'Unity in light #6' 2012 (left) 'Unity in light #9' 2012 (right)

 

Installation view of
Lucinda Eva-May (Australia)
Unity in light #6, 2012 (left)
Unity in light #9, 2012 (right)
C-type prints

 

Australian artist Lucinda Kennedy has sought to capture a phenomenological representation of the feelings and sensations of sexual intercourse through the direct imprint on sheets of photographic paper of this most primal of human interactions. Turned into a single blurred organism by the extended duration of the exposure, the artist and her partner become an abstraction, thereby aptly conjuring an experience that has always been beyond the capacity of mere description.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at left, Thomas Ruff, and at right, Justine Varga

 

Installation view of Thomas Ruff (Germany) 'r.phg.07_II' 2013

Installation view of Thomas Ruff (Germany) 'r.phg.07_II' 2013

 

Installation views of
Thomas Ruff (Germany)
r.phg.07_II
2013
Chromogenic print

 

Thomas Ruff (Germany) 'r.phg.07_II' 2013

 

Thomas Ruff (Germany)
r.phg.07_II
2013
Chromogenic print

 

German artist Thomas Ruff uses his computers to construct virtual objects with simulated surfaces and to calculate the lights and shadows they might cast in different compositions. He then prints the results, in colour and at very large scale. Combining variations of spheres, curves, zig-zags and sharp edges, all set within richly coloured surrounds, Ruff’s images are both untethered abstractions and historical ciphers. Although referred to by the artist as photograms, the final prints are perhaps better conceived as being about the photogram, studiously replaying an analogue process in digital terms so as to make a spectacle of its logic.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at left, Shimpei Takeda and at right, Justine Varga

 

Justine Varga (Australia/UK) 'Exit (Red State)' 2014-15

 

Justine Varga (Australia/UK)
Exit (Red State)
2014-15
Chromogenic photograph

 

Justine Varga (Australia/UK) 'Desklamp' 2011-12

 

Justine Varga (Australia/UK)
Desklamp
2011-12
Chromogenic photograph

 

Australian artist Justine Varga creates photographic works from an intimate and often prolonged exchange between a strip of film and the world that comes to be inscribed on it. Desklamp involved the year-long exposure of a large format negative placed on top of the artist’s desk lamp. Exit was derived from a similar piece of film that was scarred and weathered during a three-month exposure on her windowsill during a residency in London. Both were then turned into luscious colour photographs in the darkroom via various printing procedures.

 

 

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre
Queen St, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Phone: +64 6 759 6060
Email: info@govettbrewster.com

Opening hours:
Wednesday, Friday – Monday
10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 9pm

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30
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Photography and the American Civil War’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 2nd September 2013

BE WARNED, LIKE “INCIDENTS OF WAR”, THIS POSTING IS DISTURBING AND NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED!

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It was, indeed, a ‘harvest of death.’ . . . Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry. Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation.”

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“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.” 

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Alexander Gardner

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There are some very poignant and disturbing photographs in this posting. The youth of some of the combatants (Private Wood sits against a blank wall in a photographer’s studio. He is sixteen years old and will not see seventeen. An orphan, he joined Company H in Social Circle, Georgia, on July 3, 1861, and before the end of the year died of pneumonia in a Richmond hospital). The sheer brutality and pointlessness of war. Bloated and twisted bodies, inflated like balloons. Starved and beaten human beings.

And yet, you look at the photograph “Slave Pen” – the office of those ‘Dealers in Slaves’ now guarded by Union soldiers – or the photograph of Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans and the photograph of the anonymous African American soldier fighting for the Union cause directly below and you understand just one of the reasons that this was such a bloody conflict: it was about the right of all men to be free, to throw off the bonds of servitude.

To be replaced all these years later by another corrupted power – the power of government, the power of government to surveil its people at any and all times. The power of money, the military and the gun.

Praise be the land of the free.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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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.

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Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821-1882) 'Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond' 1865

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Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821-1882)
Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond
1865
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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In 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, the Confederate government moved its capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, to be closer to the front and to protect Richmond’s ironworks and flour mills. On April 2, 1865, as the Union army advanced on Richmond, General Robert E. Lee gave the orders to evacuate the city. A massive fire broke out the following day, the result of a Confederate attempt to destroy anything that could be of use to the invading Union army. In addition to consuming twenty square blocks, including nearly every building in Richmond’s commercial district, it destroyed the massive Gallego Flour Mills, situated on the James River and seen here. Alexander Gardner, Mathew B. Brady’s former gallery manager, then his rival, made numerous photographs of the “Burnt District” as well as this dramatic panorama from two glass negatives. The charred remains have become over time an iconic image of the fall of the Confederacy and the utter devastation of war.

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A-display-of-three-photographs-of-American-Civil-War-soldiers-in-the-exhibition-WEB

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A display of three photographs of American Civil War soldiers in the exhibition, “Photography and the American Civil War” April 1, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The three albumen silver prints are all by Gayford & Speidel, “Private Christopher Anderson, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865” (L), “Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865”, (C) and “Private Gid White, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865”, (R).
AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA

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Unknown Artist. 'Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)' May-June 1861

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Unknown Artist
Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)
May-June 1861
One-sixth plate ambrotype
Michael J. McAfee Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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This melancholy young volunteer was a member of the Eleventh New York Infantry, an early war regiment organized in New York City in May 1861. Primarily composed of volunteers from the city’s many fire companies, the men were also known as the First Fire Zouaves. Along with other volunteer units, the Eleventh helped capture Alexandria, Virginia on May 24, 1861, just a day after the state formally seceded from the Union.

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Unknown Artist. 'Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)' May-June 1861 (detail)

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Unknown Artist
Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves) (detail)
May-June 1861
One-sixth plate ambrotype
Michael J. McAfee Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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4.-A-Harvest-of-Death-WEB

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Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882)
A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 1863
Printer: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Publisher: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
17.8 × 22.5 cm (7 × 8 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

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This photograph of the rotting dead awaiting burial after the Battle of Gettysburg is perhaps the best-known Civil War landscape. It was published in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866), the nation’s first anthology of photographs. The Sketch Book features ten photographic plates of Gettysburg – eight by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, who served as a field operator for Alexander Gardner, and two by Gardner himself. The extended caption that accompanies this photograph is among Gardner’s most poetic: “It was, indeed, a ‘harvest of death.’ . . . Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry. Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation.”

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Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882) Alexander Gardner, printer. 'Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg, July 1863' 1863

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Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882)
Alexander Gardner, printer
Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg, July 1863
1863
Plate 37 in Volume 1 of Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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This photograph of the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg appears in the two-volume opus Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1865-66). Gardner’s publication is egalitarian. Offended by Brady’s habit of obscuring the names of his field operators behind the deceptive credit “Brady,” Gardner specifically identified each of the eleven photographers in the publication; forty-four of the one hundred photographs are credited to Timothy O’Sullivan. Gardner titled the plate Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battlefield of Gettysburg. But the photograph, its commemorative title notwithstanding, relates a far more common story: six Union soldiers lie dead, face up, stomachs bloated, their pockets picked and boots stolen. As Gardner described the previous plate, aptly titled The Harvest of Death, this photograph conveys “the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry.”

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

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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

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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.

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Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907) 'Union Private John Parmenter, Company G, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers' June 21, 1865

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Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907)
Union Private John Parmenter, Company G, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers
June 21, 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
5.7 x 9.1 cm (2 1/4 x 3 9/16 in.)
Collection Stanley B. Burns, M.D.

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In this remarkable carte de visite, Private Parmenter lies unconscious from anesthesia on an operating table at Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. To save his patient’s life, Doctor Bontecou amputated the soldier’s wounded, ulcerous foot. Before the discovery of antibiotics, gangrene was a dreaded and deadly infection that greatly contributed to the high mortality rate of soldiers during the Civil War.

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

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Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia
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
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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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.

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

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Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia (detail)
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
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Unknown Artist, after an 1860 carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady. 'Presidential Campaign Medal with Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin' 1860

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Unknown Artist, after an 1860 carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady
Presidential Campaign Medal with Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin
1860
Tintypes in stamped brass medallion
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Overbrook Foundation Gift, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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“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 April 2 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through examples drawn from the Metropolitan’s celebrated holdings of this material, complemented by exceptional loans from public and private collections, 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 traveling 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.

At the start of the Civil War, the nation’s photography galleries and image purveyors were overflowing with a variety of photographs of all kinds and sizes, many examples of which will be featured in the exhibition: portraits made on thin sheets of copper (daguerreotypes), glass (ambrotypes), or iron (tintypes), each housed in a small decorative case; and larger, “painting-sized” likenesses on paper, often embellished with India ink, watercolor, and oils. On sale in bookshops and stationers were thousands of photographic portraits on paper of America’s leading statesmen, artists, and actors, as well as stereographs of notable scenery from New York’s Broadway to Niagara Falls to the canals of Venice. Viewed in a stereopticon, the paired images provided the public with seeming three-dimensionality and the charming pleasure of traveling the world in one’s armchair.

Photography and the 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.

The exhibition will feature Gardner’s haunting views of the dead at Antietam in September 1862, which are believed to be the first photographs of the Civil War seen in a public exhibition. A reporter for the New York Times wrote on October 20, 1862, about the images shown at Brady’s New York City gallery: “Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it… Here lie men who have not hesitated to seal and stamp their convictions with their blood – men who have flung themselves into the great gulf of the unknown to teach the world that there are truths dearer than life, wrongs and shames more to be dreaded than death.”

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.

Among the many highlights of the exhibition will be a superb selection of early wartime portraits of soldiers and officers who sat for their likenesses before leaving their homes for the war front. In these one-of-a-kind images, a picture of American society emerges. The rarest are ambrotypes and tintypes of Confederates, drawn from the renowned collection of David Wynn Vaughan, who has assembled the country’s premier archive of Southern portraits. These seldom-seen photographs, and those by their Northern counterparts, will balance the well-known and often-reproduced views of bloody battlefields, defensive works, and the specialized equipment of 19th-century war.

The show will focus special attention on the remarkable images included in the two great wartime albums of original photographs: Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of War and George N. Barnard’s Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, both released in 1866. The former publication includes 100 views commissioned, sequenced, and annotated by Alexander Gardner. This two-volume opus provides an epic documentation of the war seen through the photographs of 11 artists, including Gardner himself. It features 10 plates of Gettysburg, including Timothy O’Sullivan’s A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, and Gardner’s Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, both of which are among the most well-known and important images from the early history of photography. The second publication includes 61 large-format views by a single artist, George N. Barnard, who followed the army campaign of one general, William Tecumseh Sherman, in the final months of the war – the “March to the Sea” from Tennessee to Georgia in 1864 and 1865. The exhibition explores how different Barnard’s photographs are from those in Gardner’s Sketch Book, and how distinctly Barnard used the camera to serve a nation trying to heal itself after four long years of war and brother-versus-brother bitterness.

Among the most extraordinary, if shocking, photographs in the exhibition are the portraits by Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou of wounded and sick soldiers from the war’s last battles. Drawn from a private medical teaching album put together by this Civil War surgeon and head of Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C., and on loan from the celebrated Burns Archive, the photographs are notable for their humanity and their aesthetics. They recall Walt Whitman’s words from 1865, that war “was not a quadrille in a ball-room. Its interior history will not only never be written, its practicality, minutia of deeds and passions, will never be suggested.” Bontecou’s medical portraits offer a glimpse of what the poet thought was not possible.

In addition to providing a thorough analysis of the camera’s incisive documentation of military activity and its innovative use as a teaching tool for medical doctors, the exhibition explores other roles that photography played during the war. It investigates the relationship between politics and photography during the tumultuous period and presents exceptional political ephemera from the private collection of Brian Caplan, including: a rare set of campaign buttons from 1860 featuring original tintype portraits of the competing candidates; a carved tagua nut necklace featuring photographic portraits of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and two members of his cabinet; and an extraordinary folding game board composed of photographic likenesses of President Lincoln and his generals. The show also includes an inspiring carte de visite portrait of the abolitionist and human rights activist Sojourner Truth. A former slave from New York State, she sold photographs of herself to raise money to educate emancipated slaves, and to support widows, orphans, and the wounded. And finally the exhibition includes the first photographically illustrated “wanted” poster, a printed broadside with affixed photographic portraits that led to the capture John Wilkes Booth and his fellow conspirators after the assassination of President Lincoln in April 1865.”

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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Unknown, American. '[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]' April 20, 1865

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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.)
Collages
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

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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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Attributed to McPherson & Oliver (American, active New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1860s) 'The Scourged Back' April 1863

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Attributed to McPherson & Oliver (American, active New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1860s)
The Scourged Back
April 1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.7 x 5.5 cm (3 7/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
International Center of Photography, Purchase, with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee, 2003

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Gordon, a runaway slave seen with severe whipping scars in this haunting carte-de-visite portrait, is one of the many African Americans whose lives Sojourner Truth endeavored to better. Perhaps the most famous of all known Civil War-era portraits of slaves, the photograph dates from March or April 1863 and was made in a camp of Union soldiers along the Mississippi River, where the subject took refuge after escaping his bondage on a nearby Mississippi plantation.

On Saturday, July 4, 1863, this portrait and two others of Gordon appeared as wood engravings in a special Independence Day feature in Harper’s Weekly. McPherson & Oliver’s portrait and Gordon’s narrative in the newspaper were extremely popular, and photography studios throughout the North (including Mathew B. Brady’s) duplicated and sold prints of The Scourged Back. Within months, the carte de visite had secured its place as an early example of the wide dissemination of ideologically abolitionist photographs.

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J. W. Jones (American, active Orange, Massachusetts, 1860s) 'Emaciated Union Soldier Liberated from Andersonville Prison' 1865

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J. W. Jones (American, active Orange, Massachusetts, 1860s)
Emaciated Union Soldier Liberated from Andersonville Prison
1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 9 x 5.5 cm (3 9/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
Brian D. Caplan Collection

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Most soldiers who survived Andersonville Prison were marked for life. This portrait of an unidentified former prisoner is one of many that document the intense cruelty of prison life during the Civil War. It would be another eighty years, at the end of World War II, before anyone would see comparable pictures of man’s inhumanity to man.

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George Wertz (American, active Kansas City, Missouri, 1860s) 'Private William Henry Lord, Company I, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry' 1863-65

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George Wertz (American, active Kansas City, Missouri, 1860s)
Private William Henry Lord, Company I, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry
1863-65
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.4 x 5.6 cm (3 5/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg Collection

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Private William Henry Lord, a cavalryman, sits alert and ready for the next ride. A yet unmuddied enlistee from “Bleeding Kansas,” the last state to enter the Union before Fort Sumter, Lord was in the Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry; he was wounded in the shoulder in October 1864 but rejoined his company and was mustered out in September 1865.

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Unknown. 'March from Annapolis to Washington, Robert C. Rathbone, Sergeant Major, Seventh Regiment, New York Militia' April 24, 1861

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Unknown 
March from Annapolis to Washington, Robert C. Rathbone, Sergeant Major, Seventh Regiment, New York Militia
April 24, 1861
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.9 x 5.4 cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/8 in.)
Michael J. McAfee Collection

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The Seventh Regiment, New York Militia was among the first military groups to leave for Washington, D.C., after Lincoln’s call to arms in April 1861. In or near Annapolis, en route to the nation’s capital, Sergeant Major Rathbone posed for his portrait. He annotated his likeness with enough information to suggest that this image might be the first (identifiable) photograph of a soldier made after the fall of Fort Sumter. Representative of thousands of similar portraits, this study of an officer seen against a blank wall with just a hint of a studio column is typical of the simplicity of the earliest war pictures.

Note the stand just visible behind Sergeant Major Rathbone’s feet to brace the sitter for the long exposures necessary.

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Mathew B. Brady (American, near Lake George, New York 1823?–1896 New York) 'General Robert E. Lee' 1865

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Mathew B. Brady (American, near Lake George, New York 1823?–1896 New York)
General Robert E. Lee
1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
14 × 9.3 cm (5 1/2 × 3 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

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Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. The Civil War was over. If not whole, the nation was at least reunited, and the slow recovery of Reconstruction could begin. As soon as he heard that Lee had left Appomattox and returned to Richmond, Mathew B. Brady headed there with his camera equipment. The Lees’ Franklin Street residence had survived the fires that had devastated many of the commercial sections of the city. Through the kindness of Mrs. Lee and a Confederate colonel, Brady received permission to photograph the general on April 16, 1865, just two days after President Lincoln’s assassination. Brady’s portrait of General Lee holding his hat, on his own back porch, is one of the most reflective and thoughtful wartime likenesses. The fifty-eight-year-old Confederate hero poses in the uniform he had worn at the surrender. It would be Brady’s last wartime photograph.

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Charles Paxson (American, active New York, 1860s) 'Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans' 1863

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Charles Paxson (American, active New York, 1860s)
Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.4 x 5.3 cm (3 5/16 x 2 1/16 in.)
Private Collection, Courtesy of William L. Schaeffer

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On January 30, 1864, to fan the anti-slavery cause and promote the sale of abolitionist photographs, Harper’s Weekly published this carte de visite and three others as wood engravings. The newspaper also included stirring bibliographies of the emancipated slaves. The editors noted that Wilson Chinn was about sixty years old. His former master, Volsey B. Marmillion, a sugar planter near New Orleans, “was accustomed to brand his negroes, and Wilson has on his forehead the letters ‘V.B.M.'”

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Gayford & Speidel (Active Rock Island, Illinois, 1860s) 'Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry' January-May 1865

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Gayford & Speidel (Active Rock Island, Illinois, 1860s)
Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry
January-May 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.8 x 5.4 cm (3 7/16 x 2 1/8 in.)
Thomas Harris Collection

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Samuel Masury (American, 1818-1874) 'Frances Clalin Clayton' 1864-66

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Samuel Masury (American, 1818–1874)
Frances Clalin Clayton
1864-66
Albumen silver print from glass negative
9.4 x 5.6 cm (3 11/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
Buck Zaidel Collection

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Frances Clayton is an exception – a woman who served in the Union army by disguising herself as a man. In a popular carte de visite collected by soldiers at the end of the war, she poses here as Jack Williams and suggestively holds the handle of a cavalry sword between her crossed legs. The facts of her life story and military service are difficult to confirm, but it is believed that she served in the Missouri cavalry (or infantry) beside her husband, who died at the Battle of Stones River in late December 1862.

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Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907) 'Private Samuel Shoop, Company F, 200th Pennsylvania Infantry' April-May 1865

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Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907)
Private Samuel Shoop, Company F, 200th Pennsylvania Infantry
April-May 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
18.9 × 13.1 cm (7 7/16 × 5 3/16 in.)
Gift of Stanley B. Burns, M.D. and The Burns Archive, 1992

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The last great battle of the Civil War was the siege of Petersburg, Virginia – a brutal campaign that led to Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865. Samuel Shoop, a twenty-five-year-old private in Company F of the 200th Pennsylvania Volunteers, received a gunshot wound in the thigh at Fort Steadman on the first day of the campaign (March 25) and was evacuated to Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. His leg was amputated by Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou, surgeon in charge, who also made this clinical photograph. It was intended, in part, to serve as a tool for teaching fellow army surgeons and is an extremely rare example of the early professional use of photography in America.

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

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George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
34 x 26.4 cm (13 3/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

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

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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

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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)

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Mathew B. Brady (American (born Ireland), 1823/24-1896 New York) Edward Anthony (American, 1818-1888) 'Abraham Lincoln' February 27, 1860

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Mathew B. Brady (American (born Ireland), 1823/24-1896 New York)
Edward Anthony (American, 1818-1888)
Abraham Lincoln
February 27, 1860
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Carte-de-visite
The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation

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Three months before his nomination as the Republican Party candidate for president, Abraham Lincoln went East, stopping in New York City on February 27, 1860, to give a speech at the Cooper Institute (now the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art). Many considered Lincoln’s powerful antislavery lecture as his most important to date. The closing words spurred his audience and the country at large: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Earlier in the day he sat for this portrait at Mathew B. Brady’s gallery on Broadway and Tenth Street, just a few blocks from the lecture hall. Although his visit to the studio could not have lasted long, the result of this first of many portrait sessions with Brady was a simple but powerful image that would alter the visual landscape during the upcoming election. In a single exposure on a silver-coated sheet of glass, Brady captured the odd physiognomy of the man who would change the course of American history.

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Unknown. '[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]' 1861-62?

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Unknown
[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]
1861-62?
Ambrotype
Sixth-plate; ruby glass
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image: Jack Melton

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This portrait of a cavalryman is an excellent example of a well-armed Confederate soldier. Private House wears a slouch hat and a checked battle shirt seen through the gaps in a modified woolen shell jacket with tabbed button closures. He brandishes his fighting knife and for quick use has half removed a pocket revolver from its belted holster. Perhaps the most frightening weapons in House’s personal arsenal may be his focused stare and his set jaw.

16th Cavalry Battalion was assembled in May, 1862, at Big Shanty, Georgia, and was composed of six companies. It served in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and took part in the engagements at Blue Springs, Bean’s Station, Cloyd’s Mountain, and Marion. In January, 1865, the battalion merged into the 13th Georgia Cavalry Regiment. Lieutenant Colonels F.M. Nix and Samuel J. Winn, and Major Edward Y. Clarke were its commanding officers.

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Unknown. '[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]' 1861-62? (detail)

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Unknown
[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee] (detail)
1861-62?
Ambrotype
Sixth-plate; ruby glass
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image: Jack Melton

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Unknown, American. 'Union Sergent John Emery' 1861-65

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Unknown, American
Union Sergent John Emery
1861-65
Tintype
Plate: 8.9 x 6.4 cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.)
Case: 10 × 8.9 cm (3 15/16 × 3 1/2 in.)
The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2012

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The only details presently known about this handsome, young Union sergeant wearing a striped bowtie and an imported English snake belt buckle derive from a small paper note found behind the portrait inside the thermoplastic case: “Uncle John Emery / brother of / Lucy King / buried at E. Concord / died in 1876 / buried at back in right corner.”

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Unknown. '[Private Thomas Gaston Wood, Drummer, Company H, "Walton Infantry," Eleventh Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry]' 1861

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Unknown 
[Private Thomas Gaston Wood, Drummer, Company H, “Walton Infantry,” Eleventh Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry]
1861
Tintype
Plate: 6.4 x 5.1 cm (2 1/2 x 2 in.)
David Wynn Vaughan Collection

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Private Wood sits against a blank wall in a photographer’s studio. He is sixteen years old and will not see seventeen. An orphan, he joined Company H in Social Circle, Georgia, on July 3, 1861, and before the end of the year died of pneumonia in a Richmond hospital. Wood seems proud of his shell jacket and especially his kepi, which he marked under the brim with his initials. The photographer tipped up the cap to reveal the sitter’s handiwork, but the letters are laterally reversed in the tintype. As a musician, he poses without any prop other than his uniform, the buttons touched with gold.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
T: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm*
Friday and Saturday: 9.30 am – 9.00 pm*
Sunday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm*
Closed Monday (except Met Holiday Mondays**), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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09
Jul
13

Exhibition: ‘Experience Civil War Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront’ at the Smithsonian Castle, Washington, DC

Exhibition dates: 1st August 2012 – 31st July 2013

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

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“It is very strange that I, a boy brought up in the woods, seeing as it were but little of the world, should be drifted into the very apex of this great event.”

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Abraham Lincoln, on the Civil War, July 1864

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Anon. 'Ambrotype of a washerwoman for the Union Army in Richmond' c. 1865

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Anon
Ambrotype of a washerwoman for the Union Army in Richmond
c. 1865
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

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A box of gun cotton (cotton treated with nitric acid) carrying the brand name "Anthony's Snowy Cotton," a photo processing supply that a Civil War-era photographer might use in the field to create collodion photographs.

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A box of gun cotton (cotton treated with nitric acid) carrying the brand name “Anthony’s Snowy Cotton,” a photo processing supply that a Civil War-era photographer might use in the field to create collodion photographs.
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

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'This Civil-war era photo album of American political and military figures was owned by Karl Schenk, president of Switzerland' 1865

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This Civil-war era photo album of American political and military figures was owned by Karl Schenk, president of Switzerland
1865
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

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Anon. 'A book of illustrated personal portraits from the Civil War era' c.1861-65

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Anon
A book of illustrated personal portraits from the Civil War era
c.1861-65
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

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“A photo exhibit to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Experience Civil War Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront, opens in the Smithsonian Castle August 1st 2012 and it continues for a year. Advancements in photography brought the conflict close to home for many Americans and the exhibit features a stereoview and a carte-de-visite album of Civil War generals.

During the Civil War the Castle served as a home for the Smithsonian Secretary’s family and a place of learning and collecting. The exhibit displays excerpts from the diary from the daughter of the Secretary Joseph Henry. Mary Henry recorded the comings and goings of soldiers to the Castle use of its towers to observe advancing soldiers and the state of Washington after Lincoln’s assassination.

Also featured are Smithsonian employee Solomon Brown (1829-1906) and the lecture hall that hosted a series of abolitionist speakers; it was destroyed by fire in 1865. Stereoviews, a form of 3-D photography that blossomed during that era, daguerreotypes, tintypes and ambrotypes – all emerging types of photography – are highlighted in the exhibit to explore the ways photography was used to depict the war, prompt discussion and retain memories.

The exhibit features a range of Civil War-era photographic materials from Smithsonian collections, including cameras, stereoviewers, albums and portraits, alongside photographs of soldiers and battlefields. Highlights include an ambrotype portrait of an African American washerwoman, carte-de-visite (a type of small photo) album of Civil War generals, an 11-by-4-inch-view camera and equipment and an examination of the emergence of battlefield photography and photojournalism.

Experience Civil War Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront is a joint exhibition produced by the Smithsonian and the Civil War Trust and is sponsored by the History channel. For more information visit Civil War 150.”

Press release from the Smithsonian Castle website

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in "The devil's den."]' July 1863

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)
[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in “The devil’s den.”]
July 1863

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Antietam, Md. President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers]' 3rd October 1862

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)
[Antietam, Md. President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers]
3rd October 1862

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Antietam, Md. President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers]' (detail) 3rd October 1862

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)
[Antietam, Md. President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers] (detail)
3rd October 1862

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Abraham Lincoln's presidential campaign was one of the first to use photography as a political tool 1860

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Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign was one of the first to use photography as a political tool
1860
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

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Timothy H. O'Sullivan (1840-1882). '[Fort Pulaski, Ga. The "Beauregard" gun]' April 1862

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Timothy H. O’Sullivan (1840-1882)
[Fort Pulaski, Ga. The “Beauregard” gun]
April 1862
1 negative (2 plates) : glass, stereograph, wet collodion
Two plates form left (LC-B811-0197A) and right (LC-B811-0197B) halves of a stereograph pair
Photograph of the Federal Navy, and seaborne expeditions against the Atlantic Coast of the Confederacy – specifically of Fort Pulaski, Ga., April 1862

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882). '[Richmond, Va. Grave of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart in Hollywood Cemetery, with temporary marker]' Richmond, April-June 1865

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)
[Richmond, Va. Grave of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart in Hollywood Cemetery, with temporary marker]
Richmond, April-June 1865

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James F. Gibson. '[James River, Va. Deck and turret of U.S.S. Monitor seen from the bow (ie. stern)]' 9th July, 1862

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James F. Gibson
[James River, Va. Deck and turret of U.S.S. Monitor seen from the bow (ie. stern)]
9th July, 1862
1 negative (2 plates): glass, stereograph, wet collodion

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A magnified view of a photo looking through a single lens viewfinder of a Civil War-era stereoviewer

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A magnified view of a photo looking through a single lens viewfinder of a Civil War-era stereoviewer (featuring an image in the same series as the one above)
Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Washington Navy Yard, D.C. Lewis Payne, the conspirator who attacked Secretary Seward, standing in overcoat and hat]' April 1865

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Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)
[Washington Navy Yard, D.C. Lewis Payne, the conspirator who attacked Secretary Seward, standing in overcoat and hat]
April 1865
Glass, wet plate colloidon

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civil-war-portrait-petroleum-nasby-WEB

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Matthew Brady & Co.,
Petroleum Nasby (David Ross Locke)
1865
Albumen photograph

An 1865 carte-de-visite portrait – a highly collectible albumen photograph on a small card – featuring American humorist Petroleum Nasby, pseudonym of David Ross Locke. Photo: Brian Ireley, Smithsonian

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Smithsonian Castle
1000 Jefferson Dr SW
Washington, DC 20004, United States

Opening hours:
8.30 am – 5.30 pm daily

Smithsonian Castle website

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05
Feb
13

Exhibition: ‘Cabinet of Curiosities: Photography & Specimens’ at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Exhibition dates: 12th September 2012 – 10th February 2013

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Many thankx to 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.

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Joseph Javier Woodward, American (1833–1884). 'Photomicrograph of a Crab Louse' c. 1864-65

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Joseph Javier Woodward, American (1833-1884)
Photomicrograph of a Crab Louse
c. 1864-65
Albumen print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

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Wilson Alwyn Bentley, American (1865-1931). 'Snowflakes' c. 1905

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Wilson Alwyn Bentley, American (1865-1931)
Snowflakes
c. 1905
Gelatin silver prints
Gifts of the Hall Family Foundation

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Wilson Alwyn Bentley, American (1865–1931). 'Snowflakes' c. 1905 (detail)

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Wilson Alwyn Bentley, American (1865-1931)
Snowflakes (detail)
c. 1905
Gelatin silver prints
Gifts of the Hall Family Foundation

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Charles Jones, American, (1866–1959). 'Radish, French Breakfast' c. 1900

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Charles Jones, American, (1866-1959)
Radish, French Breakfast
c. 1900
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

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“The photography exhibition Cabinet of Curiosities: Photography & Specimens opens Sept. 12 at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Featuring works that date from the 1850s to the present day, this show explores the many ways photography has expanded our centuries-old fascination with the marvellous, unusual, unexpected, exotic, extraordinary or rare.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Cabinets of Curiosities functioned like small museums. They were assembled by their owners to reflect the fascination with science and art,” said Jane Aspinwall, associate curator of photography. “Photography has always emphasized that relationship: specimens are typically used for scientific study, but they can also be considered works of art.”

This exhibition includes examples ranging from the very tiny (microscopic images of snowflakes and insects) to the very distant (telescopic image of the moon’s surface). Some images, such as X-rays, emphasize photography’s role in extending human vision. Others document such oddities as Peter the Great’s collection of pulled teeth. The wide range of processes on display – including daguerreotypes, tintypes and cyanotypes – further suggests that these photographic objects are themselves visual specimens from a bygone era.

“To me, the range of specimens in this exhibition is fascinating. Botanical, X-ray, microscopic, medical… there is even a photograph of a fragment of a Civil War soldier’s arm bone, mounted and saved by the Army Medical Museum… what an oddity!”

Featured contemporary photographers Matthew Pillsbury, Emmet Gowin, and Richard Barnes raise questions about how specimens are displayed, preserved and interpreted and how this relates to the natural world. The differing ways specimens are seen photographically, and the human-made constructs used for specimen display are also explored.”

Press release from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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William Bell, American, b. England (1830–1910). 'Successful Excision of the Head of the Humerus' 1864

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William Bell, American, b. England (1830-1910)
Successful Excision of the Head of the Humerus
1864
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

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Unknown maker, American. 'Man with Skulls' c. 1850

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Unknown maker, American
Man with Skulls
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

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Unknown maker, American. 'Hand X-Ray' 1897

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Unknown maker, American
Hand X-Ray
1897
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

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Anna Atkins, English (1799–1871). 'Paris Arguta' c. 1850

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Anna Atkins, English (1799-1871)
Paris Arguta
c. 1850
Cyanotype
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

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

Opening hours:
Wednesday 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday-Friday 10 am – 9 pm
Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5 pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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