Of the over 1000 photographs taken at the Holsinger Studio 600 of these were portraits of African Americans. This subset, of which this exhibition presents a small selection, date between the late 1890s and the first two decades of the Twentieth Century. Away from the white gaze, these commissioned portraits suggest the aspirations of people distanced two to three generations away from enslavement. They were instructed by Black teachers who firmly understood the importance of education as a tool of freedom. They were guided by preachers who sermonized Black attainment from their pulpits. They were also exposed to newspapers with coverage and mastheads that delivered a sentiment of Black liberation. Consequently, the environs that inform these images are emulated in the self-consciousness embodied by their subjects.
The title Picture me as I am is taken from Frederick Douglass’s “Lectures on Photography”. It is curated by Andrea Douglas and Jordy Yager. Special thanks is owed to Lauren Broussard, JSAAHC Trailblazer Museum Studies Intern, for her help in researching the exhibition. Picture me as I am is made possible through the generous support of the Jefferson Trust, the UVA Holsinger Studio Project, JSAAHC Board of Directors and the annual fund.