Why were blacks included in white portraits?

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James N.

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… With that "mystery" solved, I thank you for the same favor. Not once in my life had I seen a runaway slave ad with a photo before now. In fact, I'd always understood photography didn't come into full vogue until during the Civil War. Prior to then, I thought daguerreotypes were method utilized as forerunners of less costly and easier photographic process. This also begs the question of why most slavers didn't routinely photograph all their human "inventory" for insurance purposes or facilitating recapture in event of escape.
Daguerreotypes first appeared in France where they had been invented in 1839; by the time of the war they had been supplanted by ambrotypes (on glass), tintypes (on metal plates), and small cards like the one here called CDV's. Although by the war they were pretty common, they still were only available from professional photographers working in a studio. This would've meant taking individual slaves from the farm into town for that specific purpose, something probably not very likely to happen except in the case of the "nannies", etc. pictured in this thread.
 

CLuckJD

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He might be unhappy because his slave has an attitude.
But what way did he have to even be aware that his slave's demeanor shows an attitude when they all pose for this shot? I suspect she purposely changed her face a split nanosec before the shutter fell or flash went off as an act of deliberate sabotage easy to cover up later as "ignorance" from no experience with photo shoots and "low" intelligence.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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But what way did he have to even be aware that his slave's demeanor shows an attitude when they all pose for this shot? I suspect she purposely changed her face a split nanosec before the shutter fell or flash went off as an act of deliberate sabotage easy to cover up later as "ignorance" from no experience with photo shoots and "low" intelligence.


I don't mean to torque the thread and maybe it's not. Once raised holy heck with Ebay ( and got a few sellers a little mad ). A series of images showed up, black citizens in the usual poses we see. You know, Mom, Dad and baby or a pretty girl holding a book- era stuff. What irked me was these were described as and sold as ' buy this photograph of a slave ', It really was inarguable- they just were not. Obviously I wasn't the only one objecting because you don't see that nonsense any more.

Hang on, have a few. This one seemed remarkable because the baby isn't blurry. Squirmy babies are always blurry, babies always squirm. And obviously not an enslaved, non-squirmy baby.
baby mom dad not blurred.jpg
 

James N.

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But what way did he have to even be aware that his slave's demeanor shows an attitude when they all pose for this shot? I suspect she purposely changed her face a split nanosec before the shutter fell or flash went off as an act of deliberate sabotage easy to cover up later as "ignorance" from no experience with photo shoots and "low" intelligence.
… This one seemed remarkable because the baby isn't blurry. Squirmy babies are always blurry, babies always squirm. And obviously not an enslaved, non-squirmy baby.
Not exactly possible, given the extra-long exposure times with this sort of photography, still in its infant stage: Cameras as yet had NO shutters and flash powder had yet to be invented; once the photographer decided conditions were "right", he took a cap (cover) off the large lens and counted the number of seconds experience had taught him was right for the available light, humidity, etc. This meant the subjects had to hold their poses, often for several seconds - this is the reason that so often children and dogs or other animals if present are usually blurred. Special neck braces were often used, especially in studios, to keep steady the heads of adults; their tripod stands can often be seen behind a standing subjects feet.
 
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Rebforever

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I believe that the Blacks shown were trusted, beloved servants. They were included because of the fondness the families had for them.
But we must not forget that with all of that, the White families looked upon the Blacks as less than human. This may seem a cruel analogy, but slavery was a cruel, evil practice: it was akin to including the beloved family dog in a photo.
Kind of the way I think. A dog is loved and played with, looked after at the doctors, lots of food to eat, punish a dog for a misbehavior morns a little while but is soon back on the owners lap. Unless there are more evil dog owners than lovers. :smile coffee:
Not a very good analogy, is it WJC? :thumbsdown:
 

WJC

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Kind of the way I think. A dog is loved and played with, looked after at the doctors, lots of food to eat, punish a dog for a misbehavior morns a little while but is soon back on the owners lap. Unless there are more evil dog owners than lovers. :smile coffee:
Not a very good analogy, is it WJC? :thumbsdown:
Thanks for your response.
When all is said and done, no matter whether the 'owner' is benevolent or cruel, a human is not a dog. Unlike dogs, humans have the ability and right to reason and decide for themselves how they live.
So yes, it is a good analogy... unless one is blind to the evils of slavery.
 

Will Carry

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You can possibly know all the intentions nor all the moralities of all slave owners or their slaves. You can't look at a picture and tell what the people in the picture are thinking. I think we tend to stereotype people when in reality people are all different. Do you think that a white man could have fallen in love with a black woman in the old south? Or a black man fall in love with a white woman? The odds are it happened. Do you think that a white slave owner could have realized that his slaves were not less than he was? Odds are some did.
What I cannot understand is how the society in the south could be so adherent to this code that anyone sympathetic to the plight of the slave should be killed. They literally had white people so ....brainwashed or frightened that they would not dare show sympathy or aid a black person for fear of being lynched. Yet! The underground railroad started in the South and those white people chose to risk their lives to help slaves escape to freedom. OK I am beginning to ramble so I'll be rambling on. :wink:
 

Rebforever

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Thanks for your response.
When all is said and done, no matter whether the 'owner' is benevolent or cruel, a human is not a dog. Unlike dogs, humans have the ability and right to reason and decide for themselves how they live.
So yes, it is a good analogy... unless one is blind to the evils of slavery.
Don’t be preaching to me. You the one that started this conversation.
Can’t place that blame on me for a cover of what you started.
 

WJC

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Don’t be preaching to me. You the one that started this conversation.
Can’t place that blame on me for a cover of what you started.
Thanks for your response.
Sorry that my comments offended you. They were not intended to characterize anyone in our Forum.
 

WJC

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You need to apologize for comparing Slaves to dogs.
Thanks for your response.
As I cautioned, "this may seem a cruel analogy, but slavery was a cruel, evil practice: it was akin to including the beloved family dog in a photo."
That slaveholders looked upon their slaves as less than human is indisputable. For example, Mary Anna Jackson, the widow of Thomas. J. 'Stonewall' Jackson moved from recollections of the family slaves to describe "The other animate possessions of the family were a good- looking horse (named, from his color, Bay), two splendid milch cows, and a lot of chickens."<Mary Anna Jackson, Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson. (Louisville, KY: The Prentice Press, 1895), p. 119.>
Slaves, "a good-looking horse", "milch cows" and "a lot of chickens": "animate possessions".
 

ForeverFree

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Thanks for your response.
As I cautioned, "this may seem a cruel analogy, but slavery was a cruel, evil practice: it was akin to including the beloved family dog in a photo."
That slaveholders looked upon their slaves as less than human is indisputable. For example, Mary Anna Jackson, the widow of Thomas. J. 'Stonewall' Jackson moved from recollections of the family slaves to describe "The other animate possessions of the family were a good- looking horse (named, from his color, Bay), two splendid milch cows, and a lot of chickens."<Mary Anna Jackson, Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson. (Louisville, KY: The Prentice Press, 1895), p. 119.>
Slaves, "a good-looking horse", "milch cows" and "a lot of chickens": "animate possessions".

WJC,

For what it's worth, I agree with your earlier comments. I understand that you were not saying that you believe that slaves were like dogs, but rather, that slave holders treated people like dogs. In fact, people of African descent were owned like animals, sold like animals, and denied the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, which have been said to be the natural rights of all humans.

Some people even believed that Africans were another species of animal, and so, did not have to treated like humans. We now know that there is only one race, the human race.

Concerning the pictures here, I would make the point that what you don't see is as meaningful as what you do. These pictures portray slaves with their masters. Where are the families of the slaves? The importance of the slave to the master's family is shown; but the importance of the slave's family to the slave is not part of the picture. Visually, symbolically, the servants' families are unevidenced, disappeared, eliminated.

The idea that the servant has a family, and that perhaps the slave's family and the master's family are in a relationship based on the servant is simply not there. The only thing that is visually important is that the slave belongs to the family. The slave's family is invisible. For the slave, this is not a family portrait at all. In the same way that the master's family is visually preserved, the slave's family is visually lost to history. Among other things then, these pictures document who had power, and who did not.

- Alan
 

RobertP

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Here’s a good one. Where is that slave’s family? They don’t exist and are visually lost to history. Close examination reveals that the photo studio is in Philadelphia. Oops.
87B66647-A1AB-4F48-831B-52B06A98D697.jpeg
 
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