Sepia sadness and strength…

Day 30!!!!

Hi all!

What a goody gumdrop I have for you today!!! I’m always amazed at how I pick these titles through a lottery system and they are drop dead interesting 97.789% of the time!  What’s the moral? Books mostly rock.

Confession time. I ran today’s lottery twice.  The first book had a bare naked lady’s hiney on the front cover so  I chose another.  Didn’t want to scandalize my prudent little blog. But if it’s full frontal you want, head here.  She’s whip smart with a small side order of bawdy. Anyway.  On with the show!

Bibliographic information:

Hidden witness : African-American images from the birth of photography to the Civil War

Wilson, Jackie Napolean

St. Martin’s Press, 1999

How powerful is that picture?!

Summary (Booklist Review):

Photographs can provide a documentary glimpse at history. Wilson is a collector of early photographs of African and African American slaves and free black people in the U.S. In partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Wilson afforded such a historical view into the lives of black Americans first in an exhibition, which took place in 1995, and now with this book. Most of the photographs–daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes–are part of his collection.

My Reaction:

The photos in this book are at once beautiful and haunting.  They stir up an interesting mix of feelings—pride in the endurance and resilience of these people, rage that they were not treated as the valuable members of society that they obviously were.   I’m mean if we’re honest with ourselves, these people were that societies MVP’s!  And yet they were treated as non-entities…

The subjects portrayed are African-American individuals;  ‘mammies’, field hands, ‘freed negroes’, etc.  One daguerreotype shows a ‘mammy’ holding a white child who is clearly the true subject of the photo and the woman’s face is trained away from the camera as “her face is not essential to the portrait” (pg. 6).  She is but a frame, a tool to hold the child in position for the picture…

Picture after picture, the subject’s eyes reflect an anguish for their station in life but also a pride…  It’s hard to explain.  Talking about this collection of powerful, all-too-real photographs is truly like dancing about architecture. Just do yourself a favor and get your hands on this book.


2 thoughts on “Sepia sadness and strength…

  1. I harbor a kind of ‘angst’ about the past. Cloaked in stories that my father used to tell me about his daily twenty mile walk to and from the back woods of Mississippi to teach share cropper’s children in a ‘one room’ school house, and how he used to jump ditches to escape angry white men who were looking to lynch any black male they met. It is haunting and surreal to me living in the modern day America having such a tentative existence due to prejudice. When I read about it or see pictures or movies based on the true events, it summons the ire I feel for its ‘prevalence’ today. I do not know if I can look at them without disdain. Then yet, it might give me a look into a race of people that persevered through the hardships of slavery. (Undecided!)

    • i totally understand. some of the pictures were hard to look at. but there was an under note of a pride that each subject had like no matter what “Master’ said his station was, he knew his true value.

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