Equestrian Potraiture in Early Photography Essay

Equestrian Potraiture in Early Photography Essay

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Booker T. Washington on Horseback taken by the American photographer Arthur P.Bedou in 1915 follows the canons of formal and equestrian portraiture. Equestrian imagery has been seen in art throughout history in a myriad of different mediums. Examples can be seen in 10th century West African bronze sculptures all the way to 17th century Baroque European canvases. When we, the viewers see a figure mounted on a horse we can’t help but think of war or power, as we should in most cases. Roland Barthes wrote, “What founds the nature of Photography is the pose.” so when Arthur Bedou took the photograph of Booker T. Washington on a horse in 1915 it’s difficult to think that he didn’t carefully pose Washington in order to convey a specific message. Arthur Bedou was a French Creole known for his unique developing techniques, portraits, and landscapes. Booker T. Washington hired him to be his traveling photographer during his last speaking engagements in the South.
In order to fully understand the correlation between the pose and the model we must discuss the Booker T. Washington’s importance in American politics. Washington was not only Tuskegee Institute’s president but also a political leader who campaigned for blacks to achieve economic equality with whites. He believed that if African- Americans went to vocational schools to learn industrial and farming skills they could start working for themselves and maybe then they would win over the white community’s respect. Reflecting on his beliefs one can argue that he wasn’t a radical, he accepted that segregation and discrimination was a way of life in the nation however if African-American continued to be the driving force behind hard labor they would soon earn equal rights. Booker T. Wash...

... middle of paper ...

...ll, the photograph presented was very simple yet unequivocally powerful.

Works Cited

Bedou, Arthur P. Booker T. Washington on Horseback. 1915. The
Museum of Modern Art, New York.

"Booker T. Washington Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story –
Biography.com." Famous Biographies & TV Shows - Biography.com. Web. 09 Oct. 2011. http://www.biography.com/people/booker-t-washington-9524663.

Lytle, Walter A., and John F. Moffitt. "Velázquez, Olivares, and
the Baroque Equestrian Portrait." The Burlington Magazine 123.942 (1981): 528-37. JSTOR. Web. 09 Oct. 2011. http://www.jstor.org/stable/880474.

Schwartz, Peter H. "Equestrian Imagery in European and
American Political Thought: Toward an Understanding of Symbols as Political Texts." The Western Political Quarterly 41.4 (1988): 653-73. JSTOR. Web. 09 Oct. 2011. http://www.jstor.org/stable/448488.

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