UNIDENTIFIED AFRICAN AMERICAN MAN
Photography first came to America’s shores in 1839, long after the savagery of slavery had been inflicted on America’s blacks. The Eastman House collection has a number of photographs of African Americans taken in the 1850s and 1860s with the early daguerreotype and ambrotype photographic processes. It would appear from these photographs, by the style of dress, etc., that the “sitters” were free African Americans, most likely from the North and, probably, from the middle class, since photographers’ fees, though minimal by today’s standards, were not inexpensive in their time. An interesting series of photographs of African Americans from this period appears in the Studio Record Book maintained by Josiah Johnson Hawes who, with Albert Sands Southworth, operated one of the most famous American portrait studios in Boston. Among the small copy prints pasted in Hawes’s Record Book are a number of black sitters. Three of these are of the same man, J.J. Johnson of Brattle Street. Hawes’s numbering system would indicate that Mr. Johnson visited the studio for a portrait session at least twice during September 1865. The photographic record, presented through the images in this catalogue, also traces several recurring themes from the African American experience. One of these is the importance of religion. It is fitting that one of the earliest images is a daguerreotype of a minister.