Monday, September 28, 2009

What Goes Around

A 19th century portrait of a law man, wearing a badge and brandishing a bullwhip.

The photographer's back-stamp shows it was taken in Jacksonville, Florida. It's a CDV, so it dates to around the 1860s or 70s.

The man I bought it from said that it was part of a Black family's scrapbook. He believed there was a powerful story behind a portrait with the eyes scratched out, and saved for posterity. I agreed. Unfortunately, it's a story no one knows.

Later I was trying to see if anything on the badge could be read and, while examining it under high magnification, discovered that in fact the albumen emulsion over his eyes had been eaten away. By insects. They love the egg white protein used in making albumen prints. Usually they can only get at it from an edge. So I think the man's eyes were deliberately scratched out, and then the insects did their work.

I'm not sure about the concept of karma. But I'm pretty sure this cruel man, who chose to be pictured with his whip, has gotten something of what he deserved.


  1. That is really fascinating. I can imagine this shot being the final shot of a film as it focuses on the eyes and fades to black. Interesting.

  2. perhaps a spaghetti western is in order...