Where We Find Ourselves

The Photographs of Hugh Mangum, 1897-1922

By Corrine Kenner at the Haunted Antique Shop.

This spring, you can travel through time at the Museum of Art-DeLand. Walk through the gallery, and the haunting portraits of photographer Hugh Mangum will take you 100 years into the past.

Move gently: you’re about to meet people from another era — and another America. Step up close, and gaze into the eyes of those who lived in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia a century ago.

You can find more information about Mangum’s work from the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and the Duke University Libraries. Hugh Mangum’s Wikipedia Page is fascinating, too.

Where We Find Ourselves

From the museum’s website:

The Museum of Art – DeLand presents a powerful immersive art exhibition showcasing the work of early photographer Hugh Mangum.

Hugh Mangum was an itinerant self-taught photographer from Durham, North Carolina, from the early 1890s until his death in 1922 during the influenza pandemic. He traveled a rail circuit through North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia making photographs on glass plate negatives. Magnum used a variety of equipment during his career ranging from the “Penny Picture” camera which produced images the size of a penny to a Cirkut panorama camera capable of producing images 8″X 40″ without enlargement.

Mangum photographs are distinctive for the level of comfort exhibited by his subjects in front of the camera. Though the south of his era was marked by disenfranchisement, segregation and inequality, Mangum’s multiple-image, glass plate negatives reveal the open-door policy of his studio and an artistic freshness unusual for the time period.

After his death, many of Mangum’s glass plate negatives were lost for almost fifty years, stored in the tobacco pack house in Durham, where he built his first darkroom. Fortunately the images that did survive – from more than 900 plates – were salvaged and moved to the Duke Special Collections Library, where they were scanned and made digitally available.

In Where We Find Ourselves: The Photographs of Hugh Mangum, 1897–1922, some of the pictures have been scanned and enlarged using digital technology and printed in full color, something unimaginable in Mangum’s time. The deterioration of the negatives caused by the ravages of time and the elements are preserved in the images and to see them in large scale underscores the magical story of their survival and lends a distinctive sense of modernity to the photographs.