How black people in the nineteenth century used photography as a tool for social change

This article is republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original articlewhich was published on February 26, 2021.

Frederick Douglass is perhaps best known as an abolitionist and thinker. But he was too Most of the Americans photographed in the nineteenth century. He encouraged the use of photography Fostering social change for black equality.

In that spirit, this article – using photos from The David V. Tinder Photography Collection in Michigan at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan Examines the different ways black Americans of the nineteenth century used photography as a tool for self-empowerment and social change.

Douglas once spoke of how accessible photography was during his time advertiser“What formerly was the private and exclusive luxury of the rich and great is now the privilege of all. Perhaps the humblest maid now possesses such an image of herself as that which the wealth of royalty could not buy fifty years ago.

It became a photo shoot An empowerment work for African Americans. It was a countermeasure Racist caricatures that distort facial features and mock the black community. Urban and rural African Americans participated in photography to show dignity in the black experience.

The first successful form of photography was the daguerreotype, an image printed on polished, silver-copper. invention Visit card photographs, followed cabinet cardsIt changed the culture of photography because the process allowed photographers to print images on paper. Visiting cards are business card size photos with several copies Printed on one sheet. The shift from photo printing on metal to printing on paper gave rise to it More affordable to produceand anyone can assign a photo.

During the Victorian era, it was It is not uncommon for people to exchange visiting cards With their loved ones and their gathering of visitors.

Arabella Chapman, an African-American music teacher from Albany, New York, has compiled two photo albums. The first was a private album of family photos, while the other featured friends and political figures for public viewing. Creating each book allowed Chapman to store and share her photos as intimate keepsakes.

As photography became a viable business, African Americans set up their own photography studios in various locations around the country. Goodridge Brothers She established one of the first black photographic studios in 1847. The business first opened in York, Pennsylvania, then moved to Saginaw, Michigan in 1863.

The brothers—Glenalvin, Wallace, and William—were known for producing studio portraits using a wide variety of colors photographic techniques. They also produced documentary photographs printed on stereo cards to create 3D images.

Saginaw, Michigan, was an expanding settlement, and the brothers photographed the new buildings in town. They also documented natural disasters in the area. Photographers will take 3D images of fires, floods and other devastating events to record the impact of the event before the city rebuilds the area.

The development of black photographic studios has allowed communities greater control over the design of images that authentically reflect black lives. Harvey C Jackson He created the first black-owned photography studio in Detroit in 1915. He collaborated with communities to create movie scenes of important events. In one of the photos, Jackson documents a mortgage-burning celebration at Phyllis Wheatley HouseIt was founded in 1897. Its mission was to improve the situation of black women and the elderly by providing housing and services.

Mortgage burning ceremony It is a church tradition to commemorate the last mortgage payment. Harvey Jackson documented the occasion where each person would hold a string tied to the mortgage to tie each person to the burning of the document.

The African American tradition of photography began in the nineteenth century Black photographers’ use of photography today To promote social change. African Americans, whether in front of or behind the camera, are creating empowering images that define the beauty and resilience found in the black experience.

written by Samantha Hale2019-2021 Joyce Bonk Fellow at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan and current graduate student in the UM School of Information, University of Michigan.

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