Friday, November 30, 2018

Notes for a CommonPlace Book (23)

Charles Morgan:
In each instant of their lives men die to that instant. It is not time that passes away from them, but they who recede from the constancy, from the immutability of time, so that when afterwards they look back upon themselves it is not themselves they see, not even—as it is customary to say—themselves as they formerly were, but strange ghosts made in their image, with whom they have no communication.
From The Fountain, quoted by Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Representative Man



David W. Blight:
Over more than fifty years, 1841-1894, Douglass sat for approximately 160 photographs and wrote some four essays or addresses that were in part about the craft and meaning of pictures. In engravings and lithographs his image graced the pages or cover of all major illustrated papers in England and the United States. His picture was captured in all major forms of photography, from the daguerreotype to stereographs and wet-plate albumen prints. Photographers, some famous and some not, all across the country sought out Douglass for his image. As the historians of his image have shown, the orator performed for the camera. He especially presented himself without props, his own stunning person representing African American "masculinity and citizenship." He helped to choose the frontispieces for his autobiographies, which carried his photograph, and he especially sought to create for a wide audience successive images of the intelligent, dignified black man, and statesmanlike elite, at the same time he understood that photography had evolved into a "democratic art," allowing almost anyone to leave an image for posterity. Visually, by the 1870s and 1880s, Douglass was one of the most recognizable Americans; the dissemination of photographs of him became, therefore, a richly political act.
— From Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Image: Frederick Douglass, from a full-plate daguerreotype in the collection of the Onondaga Historical Association.