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Posts Tagged ‘william bullard’

If you live anywhere near Worcester, Mass., try to get to a unique photography exhibit at the Worcester Art Museum by February 25.

Asakiyume and I meet up about once a year, often in a museum, and we saw three interesting shows at the Worcester Art Museum over the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.

First, we checked out a small exhibit on antique Japanese metalwork from the Higgins Armory collection. I thought Asakiyume would be interested because of her many ties to Japan. We especially liked a tiny metal dragon and a lifelike lobster — beautiful.

We appreciated the museum’s main event, too, a show featuring art Winslow Homer created while living in England. Related work by J.M.W. Turner and other artists who influenced Homer filled out the exhibit, here.

But it was the collection of William Bullard‘s recently discovered photos of an early 20th century mixed-race Worcester community that had us riveted. Asakiyume wrote about it on her own blog, here.

What was the most remarkable aspect? That there was a mixed-race community at all in Massachusetts at that time? That the photographer whose photos were mostly of African Americans was white? That his subjects looked so relaxed, as opposed to the stiff people seen in most portrait photography of the time? That the works were lost for decades? That they were recovered in the form of glass slides and were printed for the first time for the show?

No, I think what touched us the most were quotations in certain wall texts. Amazingly, the photographer kept detailed notes on who everyone was, so stunned descendants of many subjects got to see their ancestors for the first time or to learn that a family legend was true.

The photographer was poor and couldn’t afford handsome settings. Some subjects had to pose in front of a worn sheet. Bullard lived with his mother and earned little money or recognition from his avocation. He died by his own hand.

How I wish he could have seen what his art meant to people! It wasn’t until the purchaser of the slides remembered he had also bought Bullard’s logs that two and two made four.

Reports the Daily Mail, “In January 2014 [purchaser Frank J. Morrill] and Clark University history professorĀ Janette Thomas Greenwood and her class began researching the stories behind Bullard’s subjects, constructing rich individual narratives and community history. ” (Asakiyume found the Daily Mail article. Read it here and enjoy the array of pictures.)

The Worcester Art Museum adds, “A comprehensive website hosted by Clark University (www.bullardphotos.org) offers teaching resources for educators, all of the photographs and sitters featured in Rediscovering an American Community of Color, a map of the Beaver Brook neighborhood (circa 1911), and additional research written by the Clark students who participated in a seminar related to the exhibition.”

Asakiyume took this photo of Bullard’s photo because she loved sweet-faced Luvenia Ward (right), shown here with her sisters. The photo was printed in 2016 from recently discovered glass slides of Worcester, Mass., photographer William Bullard (1876-1918).

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