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Albumen silver print
7 9/16 × 5 7/16 ins (19.2 × 13.8 cm) (image) 12 × 9 ins (30.5 × 22.9 cm) (mount)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum's 150th Anniversary, Accession Number: L.2019.57.481
Leaning against the trunk of a beech tree, the man in this picture wields a hidden instrument in the service of a mysterious task. Is he collecting botanical samples or carving a message into the bark? Remnants of past inscriptions on the trunk—visible through magnification—suggest the latter. In either case, it is clear that John Moran, who believed in photography’s ability to conjure delight in the contemplation of nature, saw the central figure as a surrogate: someone who left his mark on nature just as Moran left nature’s mark embedded in the surface of his light-sensitive paper.