The Art of Remembering Portraits of Persistence
“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” Susan Sontag
“The Smithsonian—one of the leading museums and research centers in the United States—has added over 200 images of women involved in the battle for women’s suffrage in the country to Wikimedia Commons, one of the world’s largest collections of freely licensed media. The donation helps advance the Smithsonian’s strategic plan, which calls for reaching one billion people every year through digital-first initiatives.”
“I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” Alice Paul, January 11, 1885 – July 9, 1977
Photos of two hundred women who lived and laboured for the betterment of society, during their time and for future generations, are accessible, under free licensed media. And this is only the beginning of the collection. According to Kelly Doyle, Open Knowledge Coordinator, Smithsonian Institution, “Our archivists and curators are dedicated to uncovering notable women within the archives who have been lost to history. The Smithsonian remains committed to sharing our digital assets as widely as possible.”
“I know we can’t abolish prejudice through laws, but we can set up guidelines for our actions by legislation.” Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood, October 24, 1830 – May 19, 1917
The art of photography speaks to our sense of belonging, to the overarching story of humanity.
These women, who have vanished within the folds of history, are remembered through the efforts of photographers who used their creativity to crystallize and preserve their image. How many other photos in collections and vaults are quietly waiting to be discovered?
Photography has become ubiquitous in our digital age. We are now the custodians and recorders of our generation. We tell our stories with every photo that we take. As Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood wrote many years ago, “The glory of each generation is to make its own precedents.”
“If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” Sojourner Truth, 1797 – November 26, 1883