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Triumph Of The Camera

November 2023
1min read


I have always thought Lincoln’s face uncanny—peculiarly appropriate to the camera and also peculiarly difficult for the artist to capture—both haunting and haunted. Your selection of portraits (February/March 1983) confirms my hunch. Compare John Henry Brown’s ambrotype—not bad—with Preston Butler’s, where the lidded eyes convey so much more Lincoln’s sense of tragedy and melancholy. The lids are half closed in Brown, too, but the ineffable expression is gone. Of all the portraits, I thought Healy’s good, though not reflecting the fire of the man, and the best, Barry’s crayon study. Thank God for photography—Lincoln’s face was too deep for all but the best artists! I can’t imagine having a sense of the man without the photographs.

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