Tag Archives: Field-photo

The Mangbetu in 3D

Chef Magbate from the Magoka with his shields and bundles of lances. Image courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History.

Chef Magbate from the Magoka with his shields and bundles of lances. Image courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History.

If you’re in the possession of 3D red/blue glasses, now is the time to put them on. In 2003, the American Museum of Natural History digitized a sample from the approximately 1500 stereoscopic negatives produced by Herbert Lang during his six-year stay among the Mangbetu hundred years ago. The original glass plate negatives featured two side-by-side images made by a stereo camera (one for the right eye and one for the left). For more information about the conversion into anaglyph form click here. You can browse the gallery here.

Field-photo of the day: Djabbir warriors, 1894

Image courtesy of the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden.

Image courtesy of the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden.

A well-armed group of warriors in front of a hut in Djabbir featuring a very interesting variety of shields. This pictures was made by Strauss Meulemans and shown at the Antwerp World Expo in 1894. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find more information about this Mr. Meulemans (yet); he was a good photographer, that’s for sure. The picture of the proud chief below is absolutely stunning; it’s rare to find a field-photo featuring an execution knife of this type by the way. For 33 other Meulemans field-photo’s, search with the query “Meulemans; Strauss” on the Memory of the Netherlands website here. These pictures are part of the image collection Photographed on behalf of science; exotic people between 1860 and 1920 of the National Museum of Ethnology (Leiden, The Netherlands), more information here.

I was very happy to discover a picture I have loved since a long time which was actually one of the first posts on this site (see here); now I finally know its origin.

ps apologies for the lack of service these last weeks, I was rather busy due to the Winter Bruneaf, BRAFA and the Native and Lempertz sales.

Image courtesy of the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden.

Image courtesy of the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden.

Field-photo(s) of the day: Maurice Delafosse – Les nègres (1927)

Maurice Delafosse, Les nègres planche_01_75

It’s amazing how many rare African art books can be found online these days; I just stumbled upon Les nègres by Maurice Delafosse from 1927. You can download the book here or directly go to plates here – including incredible field-photo’s from Delafosse himself, Petit, Muraz and the Citroën Expedition. Reminds me that I still have to make an appointment for a dental check-up 🙂

Maurice Delafosse, Les nègres planche_23_50

Field-photo of the day: Efé children of the Ituri Forest

Image courtesy of Jean-Pierre Hallet.

Photo by Jean-Pierre Hallet, 1960s. Image courtesy of Susan Fassberg.

This beautiful field-photo was taken by Jean-Pierre Hallet in the the 1960’s. Efé children of the Ituri Forest in D.R. Congo begin the osani game sitting in a circle, feet touching, all connected. Each child in turn names a round object like the sun (oi), the moon (tiba), a star (bibi) an eye (ue) and then goes on to name a figurative expression of “round” like the circle of the family, togetherness, a baby in the womb, or the cycle of the moon. As players fail to come up with a term that is “circular” they are eliminated from the game. Eventually, only one remains. Tradition has it that this player will live a long and prosperous life. Susan Fassberg currently holds the rights and is selling posters and cards of it here.

The G.I. Jones Photographic Archive of Southeastern Nigerian Art and culture

Ibibio mask G.I. Jones

A great resource for anyone interested in Southeastern Nigerian art, is the website featuring the photographic archive of G.I. Jones; you can find it here. It includes object pictures and rare field-photo’s from the different Igbo groups (and to a lesser extent Ibibio & Ogoni) taken in the 1930s. Jones’s book The Art of Southeastern Nigeria from 1984 is also a highly recommended read. Below a group of arusi figures from the Nri-Awka Igbo.

Arunsi Nri Waka Igbo

(both pictures courtesy of the G. I. Jones estate)

Field-photo of the day

Bangala couple

A beautiful intimate field-photo of a Bangala couple (D.R. Congo) I just discovered here. Registred in 1928 in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, unfortunately without any information about the photographer. Visit this link for 44 more wonderful field-photos from the same set. Image number two features the above husband looking forceful with a executioner’s sword and lance.

Field-photo of the day

Bangala couple

A beautiful intimate field-photo of a Bangala couple (D.R. Congo) I just discovered here. Registred in 1928 in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, unfortunately without any information about the photographer. Visit this link for 44 more wonderful field-photos from the same set. Image number two features the above husband looking forceful with a executioner’s sword and lance.

Museums and image reproduction fees

An interesting article by Jane Masséglia on museums charging reproduction fees can be found here.

Anyone with experience of the process of acquiring photographs from museum files or archives will know how varied, complex and financially horrifying it can be.

Recently I had the pleasure myself to clear the rights of four old field-photos for an upcoming publication about a private collection of African art. One museum in the UK’s image service demanded £ 75,- for each image and permission to reproduce it. A second museum asked € 100,- for each photo, while communication went painstakingly slow (four weeks and counting). In both cases the field-photos were almost a century old, made by early explorers and ending up in the museum by donation.

A small fee of course might not sound unreasonable. Museums need funds, after all. But what if this commercial attitude leads researchers to decide they can’t afford to discuss a particular photo? Then, of course, there is the bigger question of access. Do museums in receipt of public funds have a responsibility to make their holdings available for research? And in recovering the cost of digitising and administering their holdings, should they be allowed to make a profit from charging non-commercial users? Or are they right that if researchers are looking to get ahead by using their holdings, they should, like the keyring-makers and poster-printers, have to pay for them? But even if we accept that argument, the issue remains of how museums could have arrived at such vastly differing fees for the same service.

Luckily a new wind is going through museum land and more and more institutions are offering high-resolution pictures of objects in their collection free of charge; a fine examples being the Rijksmuseum in The Netherlands. Another noteworthy project is Artstor’s Images for Academic Publishing program, making publication-quality images from many bigger institutions (like the Metropolitan) available for use in scholarly publications free of charge. “Sharing is what museums need to learn to do”, as Deborah Ziska, a spokeswoman for the National Gallery of Art stated in a related New York Times article. I couldn’t agree more!

Cameroon elephant masks, then and now

While doing research on the incredible Babanki elephant headdress in the last Sotheby’s sale, I encountered this wonderful field-photo (unfortunately withouth any contextual information).

(image courtesy of Henning Christoph)

(image courtesy of Henning Christoph)

The contrast with the field-photo below, taken in Oku in 1976, was so striking I just had to share it.

(image source: "African Masks: From the Barbier-Mueller Collection", 2002, p. 63)

(image source: “African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection”, 2002, p. 63)

More wonderful Henning Christoph field-photos can be found here (scroll down).

Emile Gorlia field-photo’s in The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

In Luba countryside : Judge Gorlia and his wife visiting a Luba village chief. (EEPA 1977-0001-458) (image courtesy of  the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African Art, Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives )

In Luba countryside: Judge Gorlia and his wife visiting a Luba village chief, ca. 1915. (EEPA 1977-0001-458) (image courtesy of the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives )

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.

In Pende countryside: Judge Gorlia's wife standing in front of chief's ritual house. (EEPA 1977-0001-400) (image courtesy of the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives)

In Pende countryside: Judge Gorlia’s wife standing in front of chief’s ritual house, ca. 1915. (EEPA 1977-0001-400) (image courtesy of the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives)

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!