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Real and Imaginary: Plantation Images of the Enslaved in Lynchburg, Virginia
March 16 @ 8:00 am - March 19 @ 5:00 pm
Self-emancipated from a plantation in Maryland, the most photographed man in the 19th century,
Frederick Douglass, once stated “It is evident that the great cheapness and universality of
pictures must exert a powerful, though silent, influence upon the ideas and sentiment of present
and future generations.”
Thinking about plantation images, real and imaginary – where is the line between fact and
fiction? In what ways do the plantation images out of Lynchburg, Virginia act as tools through
which the city created and maintains a fictional version of identity? Using the text Listening to
Images by Tina M. Campt (Duke University Press, 2017) King and Macaluso approach a series
of images from yesterday and today to ask questions with the following methodology in mind:
…listening to images is constituted as a practice of looking beyond what we see and attuning our
senses to the other affective frequencies through which photographs register. It is a haptic
encounter that foregrounds the frequencies of images and how they move, touch, and connect us
to the event of the photo. (Campt, 9)
Historical sites have and are currently grappling with how to best represent the lives of the
enslaved. Visual images are an important and often used means of interpretation to better
understand history. But how truthful are these images? Analyzing these images in ways that
unearths new meanings and different narratives yields different possibilities for the past, present
and the future. Together with examining the archival material, academic scholarship and
sustained conversation with descendant communities are means of providing legitimacy.
In the absence of the self-presentation or self-creation of visual images, portraits, and paintings;
how do we interpret and reimagine such visuals as a means of understanding the lives of the
enslaved and history? What can these images tell us about the observer, the subject(s), and their
realities? How can they be reimagined as sites of self-possession, freedom, and sound?
King and Macaluso will describe and analyze images that are repeated and disseminated to the
public via history books and museum exhibits, but rarely connected and examined.