Representation of Black people in popular and vernacular culture throughout the last two centuries has been chiefly at the hand of White people. Without an outlet to represent one's self, the Black image took on generations of unfair interpretation, making Snapshots of Black private life treasured tokens of American vernacular history today. Included here are snapshots from the collection of Robert E. Jackson, a wide range of images spanning from intimate and casual, to formal and solemn, from Photo booths to color polaroids.
Though photography was invented in 1839, and by the 1870s it was a rather mobile process, depictions of Blacks in photographs were rare and largely controlled by Whites. It’s not until the twentieth century that snapshots and studio portraiture become more accessible and the Black person enters the vernacular tapestry of America through self-representation. However, this growing access to casual photography also resulted in an increased circulation of degrading images, such as harrowing depictions of lynchings, for example, which circulated as photo postcards.
These interesting vintage photos of African Americans are from the collection of Robert E. Jackson:
“I collect beautiful and compelling images in all photo mediums and am honored to be able to share some of my collection of African American photos, both snapshots and studio poses. I am drawn to faces and a visual narrative which evoke some sort of strong emotion. These photos are no exception. They speak to the singularity of all of our lives—to the beauty of love, of laughter, of simply living. And for some of the people depicted here, life was likely not easy or carefree. But there is something which these photos elicit—some sort of universal pride or endurance which makes them approachable and knowable. And ultimately timeless.”
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