Where We Find Ourselves
“The Outside Looked at Hard Enough is the Inside”
15-20 minutes, based on portrait photos from Hugh Mangum’s collection.
Plans are being developed to include a BONUS photography project of self-portraits. Input welcome.
This will provide an online option to allow for continuity of the project in the event the school year is interrupted.
To be released: January 11th, 2021
Funding Deadline: September 30th 2020
Fee per choir: $150
Please read Margaret Sartor’s interview excerpt below for attributions to the above quotes.
“Hugh Mangum’s striking and insightful portraits offer a unique sightline into the lives of a wide range of people at the turn of the twentieth century, a turbulent time in the history of the American South. Even in the best of times, trust and empathy are rare between strangers; in an era of racial terror, the evidence of these feelings in Mangum’s portraits of people from all walks of life throughout North Carolina and Virginia, is remarkable. And the lives behind these portraits, like the scattered facts we know about the artist, are, in many ways, the more compelling for their incompleteness. The gaps in our understanding lead us to consider more carefully what we know or, more importantly, what we think we know. Hugh Mangum’s attentiveness to the details of his sitters’ dress, demeanor, and expression created portraits that allow us, by scrutinizing those details, to see into the deeper, invisible layers of human complexity. Or, as the poet Marianne Moore put it, the outside looked at hard enough is the inside.”
“Part of the mystery and loveliness of these images is precisely that boundary between what we know and what we can only imagine or hope. Published here for the first time, Mangum’s portraits and his multiple image glass plate negatives confirm how collections of historical photographs have the power to subvert traditional historical narratives. His portrait of the people of the American South during the rise of Jim Crow confounds the idea of the “color line” and the accepted narrative of separate black and white worlds.”
“Mangum’s clientele were racially diverse and from a wide range of economic backgrounds, and his multiple image glass plate negatives indicate that an unbiased and open-door policy existed in his studio. In an era of violent Jim Crow segregation, this racial diversity is surprising; that Mangum’s portraits are also as insightful, as democratically seen—as existentially revealing as they are—is extraordinary. The people in these portraits stare back at us across a hundred years of time’s passing, through the indelible marks of damage and disregard and yet, in their familiarity and personal presence, these individuals seem as though they stepped off the sidewalk into Mangum’s studio only yesterday. We may think the difference of a century considerable, but these portraits suggest that the distance between then and now, them and us, is a lot closer than we might expect. Hugh Mangum’s photographs point to the possibility of a better world than the one we thought he lived in, a world that may only have existed in the eyes of Mangum or people like him. His vision offers us a welcome perspective, a new way to imagine the way it was—and how we might see our way to the future.”
Margaret Sartor, The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University To see some of the photos, and more about the exhibit at Nasher, please go to: https://nasher.duke.edu/exhibitions/where-we-find-ourselves-the-photographs-of-hugh-mangum/
To be written by Chantal Sellers, with input from Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris of The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Chantal Sellers, a native of Michigan, is a historian and writer with an eye for the stone left unturned. Her work is rich in spirituality and imagery, often encompassing the plight of the oppressed, the miraculous beauty of the natural world, and the uncommon courage of the common person. As a Native American (Anishinaabe-kwe), Chantal’s greatest endeavor is to give voice to those whose history might otherwise be forgotten. Her work has appeared in numerous publications. She recently completed her first novel.