American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

Anthony Lee: Is There Anything More to See?

Published January 3, 2013

Anthony Lee, Mount Holyoke  College
Civil War @ 150: Is There Anything More to See?
CUNY Graduate Center
November 3, 2011

In this 15 minute talk, art historian, curator, and photographer Anthony Lee provocatively examines Civil War era photography by way of one case study. The discovery, in June 2010, of a supposedly rare carte-de-visite depicting two African-American boys began a contentious ordeal over the monetary and historic value of the artifact. Lee examines the process involved in the creation of photographs during Civil War and their possible meanings and uses in the historical moment. In his unfolding of the recent events after the discovery of the image, which is in fact either a carte-de-visite or part of a stereograph, Lee shows how the meaning of the image went from “abuse + mistreatment” to “patronizing and possibly ironical” to “resilience and defiance” depending on the interpretations of each of the image’s owners. He concludes that “Civil War photographers often anticipated that their work would become the key elements of historical recall and fashioned pictures to match those needs…it’s up to us to recognize their strategies.” This talk was part of the public seminar: Is There Anything More to See?

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