If you’re in the mood for field-photo’s, The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives are a fantastic resource.
The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives at the National Museum of African Art is a research and reference center with over 300,000 still photographic images documenting the arts, peoples and history of Africa over the past 120 years. Eliot Elisofon (1911-1973) was an internationally known photographer and filmmaker. He created an enduring visual record of African life from 1947 to 1973. Mr. Elisofon bequeathed to the museum his African materials, which included more than 50,000 black-and-white photographs and 30,000 color transparencies. The Archives has since added to its holdings important and varied collections from widely recognized photographers.
You can search by country, subject & cultural group. But, there’s more to the archive than only Elisofon’s pictures. As shown in the field-photo above, the database also contains photographs of lesser known individuals, Emile Gorlia being one of them. While Elisofon’s pictures are rather late (spanning a time-period from 1947 to 1973), the Gorlia pictures give a much earlier view of traditional African cultures in transition only decades after first contact. While only a small portion of the field-photos picture “art” (the Luba adze above or the Pende figure below), the majority of the pictures mainly illustrate the local daily life of the judge and his family and the peoples he visited. While on inspection tours through the region, Gorlia visited the Songye, Pende, Kuba, Luba, Kanyok, Tetela, Chokwe, and frequented noted places as Lusambo, Albertville, Bandundu, Boma, Matadi, the Sankuru River and The Stanley Pool. These pictures offer an unique historic view and bring life to all those legendary locations.
You can find the complete list of the 1151 Gorlia field-photo’s in the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives here.
Note that judge Gorlia’s wife apparently didn’t bring many outfits with her to Congo. On both pictures she’s wearing the same blouse!