La Colonne brulée de Constantin

Pascal J. Sébah (1823–1886), La Colonne brulée de Constantin, ca. 1880 (676.2002)

The Column of Constantine was built in 328 by Emperor Constantine. Standing over 100 feet tall, it was initially topped with a statue of a standing Apollo with the face of Constantine wearing a crown with seven rays. A devastating fire in 1779 gave the column its’ common name, the burnt column. It has survived numerous natural disasters, storms, political and religious changes.

Pascal J. Sébah, a photographer of Armenian descent, opened his studio, prolific and successful, in 1857 in Constantinople (Istanbul). The studio was in operation until 1952.
April 24, 1915 is the day when the Ottoman Empire began its genocide against the Armenian people by arresting hundreds of Armenian and Christian intellectuals and leaders in Constantinople. They were later executed. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1922.

The burnt column, Apollo-less, perhaps a perch for pigeons and pedestrian, still stands. (In a byzantine turn of events, a recently discovered photo of a telegram, written in secret code by Ottoman officials in 1915, photographed in an inaccessible archive by an Armenian monk in the 1940s, may provide evidence of government knowledge of the genocide. In the coded telegram the Ottoman officials were “asking for details about the deportations and killings of Armenians in eastern Anatolia.” (NY Times)

New York Times
Public Domain Review

Google Street View, La Colonne brulée de Constantin, 2014-2017

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Hiroshima, 1945

Unidentified Photographer, [View of burned-over area with Hiroshima Kirin Beer Hall at far right], October 16, 1945 (2006.1.23)

Unidentified Photographer, [Burned-over landscape, looking east from Grid 6H], October 31, 1945 (2006.1.18)

Unidentified Photographer, [Burned-over landscape, looking northwest from Grid 5I, Hiroshima], October 31, 1945, (2006.1.298)

Unidentified Photographer, [Remains of a school building, Hiroshima], November 17, 1945 (2006.1.178)

Unidentified Photographer, [Building West of 4G-95/General view of machine shop west of building 4G-95], November 19, 1945 (2006.1.377)

Unidentified Photographer, [Burned-over landscape north of ground zero in the vicinity of Hiroshima Castle], October 31, 1945 (2006.1.278)

The United States detonated an atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The above photos, once-classified by the US government, were made to record the destruction as part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. “The goal of the Survey’s Physical Damage Division was to photograph and analyze methodically the impact of the atomic bomb on various building materials surrounding the blast site, the first ‘Ground Zero.'” Source: Hiroshima, Ground Zero 1945.

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Submerged Portraits

Gideon Mendel, Graham and Kieran Leith, Toll Bar village near Doncaster, United Kingdom, June 2007 (2013.87.1)

Gideon Mendel, Dalami, at a flooded goat farm and butchery, Ahoada, Rivers State, Nigeria, November 2012 (2013.87.2)

Gideon Mendel, Anchalee Koyamaholds, Taweewattana district, Bangkok, Thailand, November 2011 (2013.87.4)

Gideon Mendel, Prakru Samuteerapisut Sarathamma with novice monks, Komut Puttarangsi Temple, Bangkok, Thailand, November 2011 (2013.87.6)

Gideon Mendel tells in a lecture organized by WIRED that his series Drowning World is a very personal way to address climate change. He felt that the idea of climate change was only visualized by pictures of polar bears and beautiful glaciers. Mendel wanted to create a body of work that showed people who the real victims of climate change are. In 2007 Gideon Mendel photographed his first flood in the North of England. What he saw when he started photographing the people in their flooded world was a shared vulnerability. Drowning World has documented floods in 13 different countries.

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A Century of Photography: 1889

Jacob Riis (1849-1914), Another Baxter St. Alley, 1888 or 1889,

Jacob Riis (1849-1914), Dockrats hunted by police, New York, ca. 1889 (246.1982)

James Walker, Lake Geneva, near Geneva, Switzerland, ca. 1889 (455.2000)

Unidentified Photographer, [Rev. M. Shrugler baptizing Mr. Rideout, North River at foot of Sunset Hill, Norwell, Massachusetts], ca. 1889 (2007.107.31)

Unidentified Photographer, [Rev. G.P. Guild baptizing Cassius M. Clack, Clear Lake, Iowa], February 1889 (2007.107.49)

George Barker (1844-1894), “The Johnstown Calamity. A slightly damaged house. Johnstown, N.Y.“, 1889 (738.2000)

A Century of Photography: 1889

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[Man holding paintbrush and standing against a landscape backdrop]

Unidentified Photographer, [Man holding paintbrush and standing against a landscape backdrop], 1860-1900 (2014.77.12)


Unidentified Photographer, [Man holding paintbrush and standing against a landscape backdrop], 1860-1900 (2014.77.12, verso)

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A Century of Photography: 1888

James Walker, Vistors at the Museum, ca. 1888 (476.2000)

Jacob Riis (1849-1914), Bandits’ Roost, 1888, (235.1982)

Jacob Riis (1849-1914), Baxter St. Alley, 1888 (266.1982)

Jacob Riis (1849-1914), Mullen’s Alley, 1888 (204.1982)

Unidentified Photographer, [Unidentified Woman], ca. 1888 (2012.111.60)

Frank Wendt (1858-1930), George Levasseur, Champion Back-Lifter of the World, Pawnee Bill’s Wild West, 1888 (2011.47.120)

James Walker, Berlin, ca. 1888 (254.2000)

A Century of Photography: 1888

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Recent Acquisition: Donald Unrau’s “War Story”

Donald Unrau, “War Story,” 2014 (2016.10)

Donald Unrau’s “War Story” is a portfolio comprised of twenty portraits of American Vietnam Veterans. Under each image is a handwritten text, written by the subject of the portrait. The texts were written before the photographs were made. The photos were made between 1984 and 1989. The images and words, both personal and political, are profoundly moving.

For more info, please see:

Donald Unrau, “War Story,” 1985 (2016.10.2)

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