Chain gangs, segregation and poverty: Itinerant photographer's newly-published shots capture racial and economic divides in the South in the early 20th century
- Never-before-seen portraits document the American South during turbulent years of the early 20th century
- Photographer Hugh Mangum traveled across North Carolina and the Virginias to take his subjects' portraits
- A new book reveals his fascinating archive of stunning images showing everyday life during segregation
Hugh Mangum, pictured, documented the South as the 'Jim Crow' laws were coming into effect to take a close-up look at life and work of early 20th century
These stunning images bring to life the struggles and hardships of ordinary people living through some of the most turbulent years in American history.
At a time when segregation laws were being introduced, the last battles with Native Americans were fought and restrictions on immigrants were first implemented, one photographer documented the people who lived through these times.
Hugh Mangum documented the South as the 'Jim Crow' laws were coming into effect to take a close-up look at life and work of early 20th century.
The personalities in Mangum's images show everyday life, depicting the triumphs and struggles of many facing disenfranchisement, racial segregation and inequality during this pivotal era in American history.
Born in 1877, the year the Civil War's Reconstruction period ended, Mangum died in 1922, only three years after the First World War and two years after women gained the right to vote.
He traveled across the South, primarily working in his home state of North Carolina and the Virginias, Mangum pictured subjects from across racial and economic divides.
Mangum used a camera designed to create multiple and distinct exposures on a single glass plate negative to capture his fascinating subjects' portraits.
A century after their making, Mangum's photographs reveal the faces of the past and an unusually insightful glimpse of the South at the turn of the 20th century.
For the first time Mangum's work has been published in a new book, Photos Day or Night: The Archive of Hugh Mangum by Sarah Stacke with texts by Maurice Wallace and Martha Sumler - Hugh Mangum’s granddaughter.
This picture shows a group of men working in a chain gang. The Southern Reconstruction era spawned the first chain gangs, which saw prisoners shackled together and forced to do manual labor. The picture was printed from modern negative generated from a high-resolution scan
This image was printed from the original glass plate negative and shows two women playing instruments. This stunning set of photographs have been published for the first time in a new book made in collaboration with Hugh Mangum's granddaughter, Martha Sumler, and features never-before-seen photographs and ephemera from their family archive
In this collection of portraits Hugh Mangum pictured himself in the top left. He traveled across much of the South and pictured subjects of various ages from across racial and economic divides. Though the American South of his era was marked by disenfranchisement, segregation and inequality, Mangum portrayed all his sitters with candor and heart, as well as showing them as individuals, author Sarah Stacke said
Another self-portrait image of photographer Hugh Mangum sitting alongside his wife Annie. He was said to have loved self-portraits as well as images of families and couples. The personalities in Mangum’s images collectively symbolize the triumphs and struggles of these turbulent years of the early 20th century, the authors write
These series of portraits were likely taken in Durham, North Carolina, where Mangum began his career. The city was known to have a prosperous black community with black-owned businesses such as furniture shops, cigar and tobacco factories, textile and lumber mills as well as brickyards and barbershops
Beginning his career in the early 1890s, Mangum worked in a way that made hundreds of of men, women and children from various backgrounds feel comfortable enough to sit and pose for a portrait. Sarah Stacke, who compiled the collection, said: 'Though we don't know the identity of most of Mangum's sitters, it's probable that many of the black men and women pictured were working publicly and privately to establish black agency, independence and community vitality'
Sadly many of Mangum's glass plate negatives were lost, but the images that survived, from more than 900 plates, were salvaged at the last minute from the tobacco pack house in Durham, North Carolina, where Mangum built his first darkroom. Sarah Stacke said that although there are no indications Mangum intended his photographs to serve any political purposes, it's likely that many of his clients did. She wrote: 'By the turn of the 20th century, many black Americans were well-practiced at engaging the power of photography to challenge racist ideas, as well as to visually create and celebrate black identity'
The sequence of the images on a single negative represents the order Mangum's diverse clientele rotated through the studio as he captured their images. Contributor Martha Sumler said: 'I know it was a business for him, and he worked hard, but he had to have really enjoyed it and enjoyed meeting the people to show the way life was back then'
The camera Mangum used was called a Penny Picture Camera and was designed to create multiple and distinct exposures on a single glass plate negative, which made it perfect for inexpensive novelty pictures. Sarah Stacke said Mangum's work had included 'playful portraits' that were 'the distinct difference between Mangum and other photographers of his time'
At a time when photographers would not usually ask their subjects to smile, Mangum's photos revealed the 'playful' nature of those who posed for him. His granddaughter Martha Sumler said: 'It makes me realize just how much he really liked people'
Black and white people dwelled side-by-side in the Durham neighborhood where Mangum was raised. His 'portraiture hints at a counter-history…few white Southerners besides Mangum dared to reflect', writes Maurice Wallace in the book
Sarah Stacke who complied the photos for the book said she spent so long with the collection - imagining the distinct personalities and lives, their relationships to each other and to Mangum - it evolved to represent a family album to her
The front cover of the new book, Photos Day or Night: The Archive of Hugh Mangum, by Sarah Stacke with texts by Maurice Wallace and Martha Sumler, published by Red Hook Editions
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