Smithsonian acquires photos from first African American studios

Smithsonian acquires photos from first African American studios

Larry West was a mergers and acquisitions specialist when he happened upon an article in The New York Post in 1975 that said antique photographs were on the verge of becoming the next big collectible. Inspired, he walked into a shop in Mamaroneck, New York, and came across a daguerreotype — an early form of photography, made on highly polished metal plates that is almost startling in its hologram-like effect. It depicted an African American man in a tuxedo, elegantly posed before the camera. West purchased it for $10.70. “Including tax,” he said with a laugh in a phone interview. The find kicked off West’s 45-year-long passion — some might say obsession — with daguerreotypes, as objects of beauty and as records of American history, including the active role that African Americans played as both makers and consumers of photography from its earliest invention. Now, an important segment of his collection, most of which has never been on public view, has been
Larry West was a mergers and acquisitions specialist when he happened upon an article in The New York Post in 1975 that said antique photographs were on the verge of becoming the next big collectible. Inspired, he walked into a shop in Mamaroneck, New York, and came across a daguerreotype — an early form of photography, made on highly polished metal plates that is almost startling in its hologram-like effect. It depicted an African American man in a tuxedo, elegantly posed before the camera. West purchased it for $10.70. “Including tax,” he said with a laugh in a phone interview. The find kicked off West’s 45-year-long passion — some might say obsession — with daguerreotypes, as objects of beauty and as records of American history, including the active role that African Americans played as both makers and consumers of photography from its earliest invention. Now, an important segment of his collection, most of which has never been on public view, has been