Frederick douglass essay on photography,

On a small plate of metal, Daguerre coaxed the sun's rays, guided by the lens of a camera, to produce an image whose detail was as minutely faithful to reality as the reflection in a mirror—only in black and white. It is beyond the bounds of this review to provide close readings of these fascinating primary sources; however, Douglass develops an important image theory worth foregrounding here. They would claim that photography is more art than science by pointing to how the subject matter is arranged, how the lighting is manipulated, to frederick douglass essay on photography type of lens or printing-out paper is employed, even to the way the scene is composed and framed. We have overlooked what it meant, in the age of slavery and its aftermath, to see a demonstrably literate, dignified, serious representation of a person of color, to see sample business plan for mobile food truck logic of racial inferiority disproved in a single, crisp image. And this collection reminds us, as well, of the democratic, revolutionary power of the photographic image, of the sense of magic that often accompanied the collection of the image of those who labored to change the world. Formerly, the luxury of a likeness was the exclusive privilege of the rich and great.

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For Douglass, this universalizing and democratizing revolution involved more than a breaking down of class divisions; it also meant attacking what we might call the optics of racism, that is, how white Europeans had come to see black Africans as a nearly separate species, a view which corrupted painted portraits: Yet, it was this photographic record that Douglass may have found his purest vessel of truth.

Once, portraiture had been the "special and exclusive luxury" of the rich or the noble in the form of paintings how to create a curriculum vitae online sculptures that cost a small fortune to commission; now Americans could assert their egalitarianism in self-representation. Her albums include portraits of family members, friends, and other intimates alongside images of more distant and famous men and women of the era.

Public figures had to wrestle with the way that their scripted, staged image could sometimes take on a life of its own.

Frederick Douglass

He rarely averts his eyes from the lens, as was common in those days. This, the photograph silently proclaims, is not a man to be trifled with. He preferred the accuracy of the modern photograph to the impressionistic feel of the sketch. In several lectures given by Douglass between andhe is even more philosophical about the portrayal of African Americans.

Long recognized as a great orator, Douglass used pointed rhetoric to rebuke slavery and promote freedom for African-Americans; in posing for dozens of portraits, he showed what black freedom and dignity looked like. One of the very earliest known portraits of him was taken in the mids, probably just around the time that the publication in of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave Written by Himself made Douglass a national and then an international celebrity.

Frederick Douglass Used Photographs To Force The Nation To Begin Addressing Racism | The ARTery

When Douglass complained about how white artists "take likenesses" of blacks, he meant painters, sculptors, and engravers—all artists except photographers, because in all other art forms, the artist's preconceived way of seeing necessarily intrudes upon the representation of the subject matter.

He discovered early that photography had the power to redefine the often stereotypical African American image.

  • In an age of soaring expectations of science, the daguerreotype symbolized the possibility that human ingenuity might capture the very essence of nature.

We get to watch as the formal Gilded Age photographs of Douglass become post Civil Rights murals in a cityscape he could scarcely have imagined. The engraving, drawn from the earliest commercial photograph known as the daguerreotype, portrays Douglass as solemn, angry and somewhat defiant.

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He is always well dressed in sharp suits, his starched collars adorned with a natty tie. The authors offer anecdotes about specific engraved images to which Douglass objected, for example an knowledge transfer phd thesis that portrayed him with a slight smile, and Stauffer, Trodd, and Bernier include many frederick douglass essay on photography these to allow a comparison by readers.

This is an image meant to convey character.

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The archival volume definition of comparison and contrast essay us see Douglass, the sitter, as the aesthetic author of evolving images that develop similar themes regardless of shifting photographers. Indeed, the determined abolitionist believed fervently that he could essay about fire and earthquake drill the dignity of his race, inspiring others, and expanding the visual vocabulary of mass culture.

But photography, for Douglass, was also a reflection of reason and progress.

A plain, white wall is in the background. Douglass envisioned photographs as a counter to the dehumanizing vision of caricatures, including those by which he was advertised as a runaway.

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Zoe Trodd of the University of Nottingham, this fascinating collection was inspired by their acclaimed book of the same name, with Celeste-Marie Bernier, also a University of Nottingham professor. After this, the eye moves up, to the furrowed bridge of his nose, and to his serious gaze.

There is a shirt and tie or a graduation gown, a streaky sky-blue background, ad a serious look. By the time of his death inDouglass was the most famous black man in the world.

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He also engaged with the medium by arranging portraits of himself for more than five decades, from around until his death in He was a theorist of the technology and a student of its social impact, one of the job application letter to a law firm to consider the fixed image as a public relations instrument.

A wrinkle in a vest is just slightly different here.

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The great discoverer of modern times, to whom coming generations will award special homage, will be Daguerre. Read More. He despised drawings portraying his people with exaggerated features — slack-jawed knowledge transfer phd thesis, or as giddy slaves.

Morsethe American inventor and painter, happened to be in Paris in to promote his own invention, the electromagnetic telegraph.

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By identifying clustered images from a single sitting, Stauffer, Trodd, and Bernier allow us to analyze the ones Douglass preferred to circulate. More often than not, he is photographed alone, and he never smiles. This is an interesting moment to be thinking about such things, of course.

The servant girl can now see a likeness of herself, such as noble ladies and even royalty itself could not purchase fifty years ago.

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A classic image of Frederick Douglass. The daguerreotype is truly a marvel: His eyes blaze with fearless purpose and determination; he all but defies the viewer to look away. Pulling together extensive images of and writings by Frederick Douglass, many never before published, Picturing Frederick Douglass is a treasure trove for several fields, including photography history and practice, art histories of the African diaspora, and histories of American art.

  1. Negroes can never have impartial portraits at the hands of white artists.
  2. Such images, Douglass knew, reinforced white supremacy by presenting black people as simple-minded and subjugated.

The humblest servant girl may now possess a picture of herself such as the wealth of kings could not purchase fifty years ago. Formerly, the luxury of a likeness was the exclusive privilege of the rich and great. The book by John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier is worth returning to here for what it offers specifically to artists and art historians.

Frederick Douglass and the Progress of Photography

In a speech titled "The Negro as Man," probably written in the mids, Douglass criticizes the way in which Blacks were portrayed by illustrators in popular newspapers like Harper's Weekly and in scientific studies of the world's races. But, at least for now, let us give Douglass the benefit of the doubt. Douglass explores pictures as definitional to the human experience, proposing picture making and picture appreciating as the capacities that divide man from animals.

We have overlooked school uniforms vs no school uniforms essay it meant, in the age of slavery and its aftermath, to see a demonstrably literate, dignified, serious representation of a person of color, to see the logic of racial inferiority disproved in a single, crisp image.

We have pictures, true pictures, of every object which can interest us. It gets printed on the frederick douglass essay on photography hand-made signs posted next to the flowers and candles that mark the site of public death.

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Tens of millions of images were produced. What was once the special and exclusive zimbabwe issues essay of the rich and great is now the privilege of all.

The words in this highly visual book are perhaps even more powerful than the images. He alone of all the charlene pool case study of the earth has the capacity and passion for pictures.

Frederick Douglass’s Faith in Photography | The New Republic

But now, like education and a thousand other blessings brought to us by the advancing march of civilization, such pictures, are knowledge transfer phd thesis within easy reach of the humblest members of society. The illustration of Douglass portrays him as a youthful, well-groomed, smiling young man.

Even in that first palm-sized photograph, Douglass seemed to fully understand the power of a single image.