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Buyer defends photo thought to show slave children

Jun 17, 2010 8:14:00 PM - thestate.com
A collector is defending his recent purchase of a century-old photo believed to depict children born as slaves after similar images found online called its rarity into question.

The photo found in a North Carolina attic in April was part of a trove of pictures and documents bought by collector Keya Morgan for $50,000. Morgan and an art historian say they believe the photo depicted two children who were either slaves or just emancipated in the early 1860s.

Since an Associated Press story was published last week about the photo and Morgan's claims that it was extremely rare, critics have located similar images of the children on eBay and at a digital archive of the New York Public Library. Bloggers and anonymous commenters said the existence of the other images casts doubt on Morgan's claims that the photo is an original taken around the time the Civil War began.

But the New York collector said his photo was made from the original negative taken of the two children in the 1860s, while the others appear to be poor-quality copies made years later. He said his picture is a wet plate albumen print, which produces rich tones.

Will Stapp, a photographic historian and founding curator of the National Portrait Gallery's photographs department at the Smithsonian Institution, agreed that Morgan's photo is made from the original negative, but said he couldn't determine whether the others were copies made later.

USA, South Carolina: (Latest Stories)