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|Black Artists in Photography, 1840-1940 |
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African-American photographers played an almost invisible role in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, their contribution to the art form largely overlooked and barely documented. Though this book is intended for ages 11 and up, Sullivan does not patronize young readers; he excels at placing his subjects in the context of their times, filling in the background with fine brushstrokes. James Van Der Zee, the best known black photographer, is excluded in favor of important but comparatively obscure names like pioneer daguerreotyper James P. Ball--whose studio rivaled Mathew Brady's--and portraitist Addison Scurlock.
Gr. 5^-8. A handsome book that does justice to its subject. African Americans worked as photographers almost from the inception of the profession, but early photographers gained little historical recognition for their work. Sullivan helps right this omission by profiling black photographers who worked between 1840 and 1940: Jules Lion, Augustus Washington, James P. Ball, the Goodridge brothers, Cornelius M. Battey, and Addison Scurlock. Sullivan begins with a long and interesting prologue that gives an overview of the subject (noting how African American women photographers of the time have been even more overlooked than the men) and explains the photographic processes his subjects used. The biographies themselves can turn a little dry, but each chapter is enlivened by the wonderful portraits that rivet readers' attention. With crisp, white paper and sharp reproductions, the book has clearly been carefully designed and will draw kids in. Ilene Cooper
From Kirkus Reviews
Six chapters in the history of American photography, with biographies of the following artists: Jules Lion, a Frenchman who was one of the first daguerreotypists in this country; Augustus Washington, a black intellectual who ran a photography salon in Hartford before emigrating to Liberia; James P. Ball, one of the most celebrated photographers of the latter half of the 19th century; the Saginaw-based Goodridge Brothers, who photographed historical events and landscapes as well as portraits; and two 20th-century black photographers of black subjects, Cornelius M. Battey, who was influenced by Stieglitz's idea of pictorialism and worked for The Crisis, and Addison Scurlock, who recorded the lives of the African-American community in Washington, D.C., during the first half of this century. Parallel histories coexist in this book, which is not only a step-by-step account of the evolution of photography, but six windows into African-American history during different decades and settings. Sullivan (Matthew Brady, 1994, etc.) adroitly moves between information on photographic technology and civil rights to create a riveting and unusual book filled with a wonderful collection of black-and-white lithographs, daguerreotypes, and photographs. An exceptional cultural history. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11+) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Midwest Book Review
The works and contributions of early black photographers have been long overlooked: this details the many activities of Afro-American daguerreotypists active during 1840-1940, profiling many fine works. An excellent history which includes plenty of vintage photo examples.
Card catalog description
Surveys the work of African-American professional photographers from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century: Jules Lion, Augustus Washington, James P. Ball, the Goodridge Brothers, Cornelius M. Battey, and Addison Scurlock.