Snapshot in Time

Restoration experts make a startling discovery that an 1848 daguerreotype hides a wealth of insight into life in a pre-war riverside town

In 2006, conservator Ralph Wiegandt flipped on his Zeiss Axio stereomicroscope and peered at the surface of an 1848 daguerreotype. The Cincinnati Public Library had entrusted him to clean its prize possession, a rare five-and-a-half-foot-long, eight-plate panorama photograph of the city’s waterfront. Working out of the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, he found the image’s surface strewn with corrosive particles, as he had expected. But at the same time extraordinary details from the image jumped out at him: letters on a billboard, a face in a window.Read more »

Picturing Alaska

On a 1947 trip up north with his son, Ansel Adams took a remarkable photograph that brought Alaska's grandeur to the American public on a large scale for the first time

In the summer of 1947, Ansel Adams and his 14-year-old son, Michael, undertook a six-week journey through Alaska that would have notable consequences for the history of conservation. Adams was already close to a household name for his masterful landscape photography, particularly the powerful shots of Yosemite Valley. A 1941 visit to Glacier National Park had sparked his interest in the north country.Read more »

Indispensable Photographs

The most indispensable photographs show us who we are: the formal portraits of our great-grandparents as newly arrived immigrants and our own parents on their wedding day; the candid snapshots of our youthful selves and of our own children at moments in time gone forever. They mean little to anyone whose life is not tied to the memories. Read more »

Is Lincoln Here?

A stereo view discovered in a California flea market may show the President-elect embarked on a momentous journey

It was, up to that point, the photo opportunity of the century.

Here was the nation’s President-elect, Abraham Lincoln, visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia en route to his inauguration—the defender of the Union seeking inspiration at the cradle of American independence. Adding resonance was the sacred day: Washington’s Birthday, February 22, 1861.

 

It was, up to that point, the photo opportunity of the century. Read more »

Texas Testament

A LIFETIME AGO A QUIET STRANGER passed through the author’s hometown and came away with a record of both personal and national importance

FOR HALF A CENTURY THE PICTURES HAD BEEN POPPING UP occasionally in books or magazines—razor-sharp blackand-white images of life in our little East Texas farm town in the thirties. The photos were usually captionless, the subjects identified merely by occupation—farmer, merchant, teacher, banker—but in San Augustine (population 3,026), where everyone always knew everybody else, recognition was immediate. Read more »

Dubin At Work

A HALF-CENTRY AGO Harry Dubin bought his son a camera, and together they made a remarkable series of photographs of a city full of blue-collar workers—all of them Dubin

WILL ROGERS MAY NEVER HAVE MET A MAN HE DIDN’T like, but Harry Dubin evidently never met one he didn’t like to be. Fifty years ago his protean inclinations inspired an extraordinary series of color photographs that have only recently surfaced. Read more »

Who’s Who?

A historian of American portraits tells how he determines whether a picture is authentic—and why that authenticity matters

More than any other features, our faces are what mark us as unique individuals. Superficially our faces are who we are. Together with names they identify us with the lives we have lived; they are our perpetual calling cards. Our interest in and curiosity about faces is a natural phenomenon, and if we are to feel a kinship with our national heritage, it matters that we recognize the faces of our American icons. Read more »

The Picture Snatchers

Their unwilling subjects considered the tabloid photographers pushy and boorish. But they felt they were upholding a grand democratic tradition.

In 1928 the New York Daily News recruited Tom Howard, a Chicago Tribune photographer who was unknown to New York law-enforcement authorities. His assignment: Penetrate the death chamber at Sing Sing prison—off limits to cameramen—and record the electrocution of Ruth Snyder, a woman sentenced to the chair for the murder of her husband.Read more »

Lucky Strike

From Interstate 25 we took the exit for Trinidad and pulled into a McDonald’s on the edge of the commercial district, near the Colorado Welcome Center and the local chamber of commerce. Read more »

Into The Face Of History

Starting with a single, haunting battlefield image, an amateur photo detective managed to reconstruct a forgotten photographer’s life and uncover a treasure of Indian portraits.

I had waited six months to see it. A long-time collector, I loved to roam the monthly swap meet in Long Beach, California near my home. Half a year before, I’d stopped at the booth of a dealer in old photographs and asked if he had anything related to General Custer or to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, both favorite topics of mine. He told me that he had a stereo view of the Custer Battlefield, but he hadn’t brought it with him, and it wasn’t for sale. “It’s by a photographer I’ve never heard of,” he explained.Read more »