The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Photojournalism
As we noted before, we’re in our third year of celebrating Women’s History month by uploading new (old) photos of women scientists on the Flickr Commons, and highlighting some of these and other groundbreaking women on the blog. Back in 2009, we asked for you to help us learn more about some of the mystery women in our Science Service collections, and boy did you deliver! You provided additional background information for thirteen women posted to the Flickr Commons that year, and in one particularly unique example, you started the chain of events that not only helped us identify scientific illustrator Elizabeth Sabin Goodwin, but also eventually meet Ms. Goodwin’s granddaughter and discover other drawings by Goodwin in our collections. We’re here to ask for your help again this year with a new set of photos that we just added to the Smithsonian Flickr Commons:
While not all of the unidentified individuals in these images are women, all of these photos do feature women and are from our venerable Science Service collection. Some photos have quite a bit of context, others have very little—either way, your sleuthwork could help us gather valuable new information about our collections. In some instances, we have a name associated with a photo, but little background information about the career of the woman pictured. Case in point? Marian G. Hogan, described on the reverse of this photograph as “President of Weatter [or Wealter] Services, Inc., 41 Mt. Vernon St., Boston, Massachusetts.” The photo is not dated, but we know that the photographer, Bradford Bachrach, was the head of the well-known studio chain, Bachrach Photographers, from the mid–1950s through 1970s and specialized in portraits of women. Any ideas about in what industry Ms. Hogan might have worked?
In other cases, we may have incorrect names or attributions. For example, here is an image of Professor and Mrs. H.C. Hamilton being photographed by psychologist Weston Ashmore Bousfield (1904-1986),which was made by Marjorie Van de Water at an American Psychological Association meeting. However, our researcher and archivists have decided that given the context of the photograph (and that Bousfield's name was misspelled on the original label), it is likely that one or both of the Hamiltons were psychologists but that the initials written on the accompanying caption may be incorrect. What do you think—have any leads for us? No matter if you help us research these photos or not, we hope you enjoy, and please keep your eyes out for our weekly additions of photos to the Flickr Commons throughout the month of March!
As promised, we just uploaded a new batch of over twenty photographs from our Science Service collection to the Smithsonian Flickr Commons.
This week is heavy on the anthropology, archeology, and psychology, with a dabble of astronomy and engineering thrown in. The photos include such gems as: Drs. Mary and Louis Leaky, anthropologists and archeologists famous for their discoveries of the fossils and tools of ancient hominines, holding up a portion of a jawbone; women translating and researching at the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research; and Regina Flannery Herzfeld, one of the first female anthropologists in the United States.
Enjoy, and let us know if you find any favorites!
I had the recent opportunity to sit down with colleague and Smithsonian photographer, Michael Barnes of the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Photographic Services and really get to know the man behind the camera. Michael Barnes has been employed at the Smithsonian for an impressive thirty-five years. A photographer for eight of those years, Michael is one of a select group of professionals scheduled to document the Smithsonian, whether pertaining to objects in collections, senior staff portraits, or Smithsonian-related events. Brimming with highlighted experiences from when he first began taking pictures for the Smithsonian, we dove into discussion touching on an array of past assignments. Michael explained the charm of being a Smithsonian photographer is all about “the people you meet and the objects you see.” As Michael states, “One minute you’re playing in dirt, the next minute you’re photographing a great professor!” Though he enjoys it all, he expressed a certain preference for photographing objects. “It’s a chance to be creative. Determining the right lighting, different angles, detail shots . . . Plus, they don’t talk back; they just sit there.” Michael chuckled. To help illustrate his enthusiasm for recent projects, Michael took me on a tour through his digital image files. There, he singled out a dress. From this image, he recalled a memorable object photo shoot for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Prepared for sophistication, Michael photographed five antique gowns in two days from a makeshift studio. He remarked this was his favorite dress because, "Each flower [on the dress] was handmade. Each petal was handmade." Focused on such thoughtful detail and care, a photographer is bound to form an attachment, even if the shoot is a mere couple of days.
Michael did express a choice for object photography, though he seems to have an equally good time chronicling events. While surfing through the images, he paused to describe being called to duty as a staff photographer for Smithsonian-sponsored events, such as Save Our African American Treasures: A National Collections Initiative, a program presented by NMAAHC. In between capturing the compelling and casual, Michael had opportunities to mingle amongst the people sharing heirlooms and passion for their heritage.
He also presented a striking image from the 42nd Anniversary “Jubilee” Luncheon of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum. Seated on the left (in the fantastic purple hat) is the late Dorothy Height, chairman and president emerita, National Council of Negro Women, and on the right is Johnnetta Cole, director of Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. From Michael’s unique perspective, referring to Cole’s engagement with Height, “It’s like she’s gleaning nuggets from this woman, there’s so much history in her . . . ‘Tell me more, tell me more!’”
To top it off, being a Photographic Services photographer awards the perk to pursue work independently, inspiring more visceral calls to photograph national events, such as the momentous Million Man March and historical presidential inaugurations.
Whether in the studio or in the field, Michael has an energy for photography that just won’t quit! It was clear, with his natural interest in history and artifacts, taking pictures for the Smithsonian is the prime place to be. What’s better than appreciating the adventure of your assignments? Being appreciated for your work, of course. Michael said it best, “Let me put it to you this way, I’m always invited back.” With that, there’s no doubt. Our lens caps are off to you, Michael Barnes. This is part of a series of posts giving a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Also see posts describing the work of a Photo Archivist, a Registrar, a Librarian, and an Archivist.
Most of us know what it’s like to be the subject of a photograph and to take one, to be seen and to see. But some of us, due to unusual circumstances, know more about that than others. In her 1984 autobiography, Knock Wood, Candice Bergen wrote with insight about the ways photography impacted her life, for better and worse. As one of the 1950s most frequently photographed celebrity offspring, and later as a movie and television star, much of Bergen’s success comes from knowing how to navigate a world defined and shaped by images. That’s why we invited her to be part of click!.
Bergen zeroes in on the period in her life time, starting in the late 1960s, when she decided to position herself on the other side of the camera’s lens, as a photographer. Having grown up in awe of photojournalists like Robert Capa and Margaret Bourke White, and after meeting Mary Ellen Mark in college, Bergen bought her first camera with money from modeling assignments, thinking that photography might provide her with a more direct and authentic way to engage with the world than her work as a model and young movie star did. If, for a few years, Bergen chose to describe herself as a photojournalist on her passport, it was because she felt that the “truth” of photography could help her sort out the “untruth” of filmmaking and celebrity.
Not surprisingly, and given how the media works, as Bergen’s visibility and celebrity rose so did opportunities for her to make and publish photographs. In the 1970s, and during the rise of what was called the “new journalism,” media outlets eagerly engaged contributors like Bergen, to bring their subjective perspectives to the work of recording and responding to the tumultuous cultural change of the time. Bergen was commissioned to write articles for, and publish images in magazines such as LIFE, Esquire, New York, Ladies Home Journal, and Cosmopolitan, and to produce photographic projects for The Today Show and NBC Sports.
With humor and self-deprecating honesty, Bergen describes not only how her interest in photography began, but how and why it ended, once she realized that taking pictures—which had once seemed like the best way for her to see, engage with, and record the world—had become a passionate diversion. To read her story, click here . . .