Pictures with Purpose

USD $16.95

Out of stock



ISBN: 978-1-911282-23-5

76 pages with 6 page gatefold

180 × 180 mm (7 ⅛ × 7 ⅛ in)

50 colour and b&w photographs

In association with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

March 2019


Focuses a lens on African Americans, not merely as subjects, but also as agents

“For Turn-of-the-Century African-Americans, the Camera Was a Tool for Empowerment”—Jane Recker,

“A great introduction to the earliest photographs in the museum’s collection, and to the ways photographs by and of African Americans operated early in our country’s history”—Conor Risch, Photo District News

“Today, these pictures are still captivating, encouraging us to celebrate the agency and aspirations of legions of black people, behind and in front of the camera”—

“12 Of The Oldest Pictures From Black History In America”—Buzzfeed News

“The photographs selected for this seventh volume of the Double Exposure series bear witness to African Americans during a crucial span of history, through the Civil War and its aftermath from the dawn of photography in the United States.”—Lonnie G. Bunch III, Founding Director

Read More

Pictures with Purpose, the next volume in the Double Exposure series, explores images from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s collection of nineteenth and early twentieth-century photography that includes daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, cartes de visite, cabinet cards, cyanotypes, stereographs, and other early photographic forms. The volume looks at how early photographs of and by African Americans were circulate and used, and considers their meaning, for the sitter, for the photographer, and for the owner of the photograph. Particularly significant is how African Americans used photography to shape their image within and beyond their communities.

 Pictures with Purpose features images of unknown African Americans before and after Emancipation—including children, couples, images of young African American soldiers in Civil War-era military uniform, and African American nursemaids with their white charges. Also included are photographs of renowned African Americans such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Mary Church Terrell. Photographers include J.P. Ball, Cornelius M. Battey, Matthew Brady, Frances B. Johnston, and Augustus Washington.

Double Exposure is a dynamic series based on the notable photography collection supporting the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Author biographies

Lonnie G. Bunch III is the Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Tanya Sheehan is chair of the Department of Art at Colby College and an early photography scholar

Michèle Gates Moresi is supervisory museum curator of Collections at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Laura Coyle is head of Cataloguing and Digitization at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Table of contents

  1. Foreword by Lonnie G. Bunch III
  2. The Social Lives of Photographs by Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi
  3. Vernacular Photography: A Plurality of Purposes by Tanya Sheehan:
  4. Photographs
  5. Index