J.P. Ball at one time was considered the best
photographer in the
Born a free man in
The book J.P. Ball, Daguerrean and Studio Photographer includes about 300 of Ball’s pictures including people of all walks of life. Mostly it includes portraits of what appears to be well to do people. This collection clearly shows that Ball had a vast array of clients who sought out his work. Curiously it seems that each person has their left arm leaning on a chair, post, or table. There are wonderful group pictures including families and schools. Almost all pictures are of people and only a few are of buildings. Each portrait shows the studio that Ball owned at the time. Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes, Albumen prints, carte-de-visite and Albumen cabinet card are the mediums. Highlight of the book is the pictures of William Biggerstaff which is discussed shortly and the Ball’s Splendid Mammoth Pictorial Tour of the United States Comprising Views of the African Slave Trade; of Northern and Southern Cities; of Cotton and Sugar Plantations; of the Mississippi, Ohio and Susquehanna Rivers, Niagara Falls, & C. and the pamphlet that accompanied it.
J. P. Ball's great contribution to history and photography is his coverage of the injustices of slavery and the lynchings that took place in the 1900. He used his photographic skills to expose the abhorrent institution of slavery by promoting antislavery activities. [ii] Deborah Willis, historian and photographer in her book Reflections in Black, A History of Black Photographers 1840 to Present reflects on how “visual representations of black people commonly produced on postcards and sheet music depicted exaggerated features and demeaning situations that have left enduring negative impact, one that has endured to this day.” Ball’s photography and the work of other black photographers contradicted this by showing more realistic depictions of both ordinary and famous people. “Most of their African-American clients wanted to celebrate their achievements and establish a counter image that conveyed a sense of self and self-worth.”[iii]
One of his most moving documentation was the
photography of the
lynching of William Biggerstaff.
In a series of photographs Biggerstaff who was accused of murder is
first pictured in a suit with a flower pinned to his lapel and a
handkerchief in his pocket. The
At the same time he took pictures of a vast variety of people famous and unknown, slaves and freemen. His sitters included Frederick Douglass, Henry H. Garnet, Jenny Lind, and Ulysses S. Grant.[v] Even early in his career it was stated that “Ball was able to attract clients to his rented room: “The Virginians rushed in crowds to his room; all classes, white and black, bond and free sought to have their lineaments, stamped by the artist who painted with the Sun’s rays.””
Ball is famous for his
abolitionist work and his photo
Ball’s Splendid Mammoth Pictorial
Tour of the United States Comprising Views of the African Slave Trade; of
Northern and Southern Cities; of Cotton and Sugar Plantations; of the
Mississippi, Ohio and Susquehanna Rivers, Niagara Falls, & C.
This work 2,400 square foot antislavery photo panorama and
accompanying charted the slave experience through images of the life in
Africa, the horrors of the middle passage, and daily routines in
Currently there is not a lot of information available about photographers such as James Presley Ball. The authority on his work and on black photography is Deborah Willis. Every effort to research seems to point back to her work. Just as James van der Zee was relatively unknown until about 1969 but now is prominently recognized as having made a tremendous contribution to photography, it is very likely that in the coming years that James Presley Ball and others like Augusta Washington and Daniel Freeman will likely receive their proper recognition as prominent photographers.
Ball’s Splendid Mammoth Pictorial Tour of the United States Comprising Views of the African Slave Trade; of Northern and Southern Cities; of Cotton and Sugar Plantations; of the Mississippi, Ohio and Susquehanna Rivers, Niagara Falls, & C.
[ii] Willis, Deborah,
Reflections in Black, A History
of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present,
[iii]Ibid, page XVII
[v] Willis, Deborah, ed. J.P.
Ball, Daguerrean and Studio Photographer,
[vi] Ibid, page XVI
Lonnie Dawkins is a Fine Arts trained photographer local to the Washington, DC: Maryland: and Virginia area. He is however available worldwide. Outstanding color or Black and white portraiture. Corporate, Family, and personal photography. Lonnie Dawkins is a Prince George's photographer and a Lanham photographer.
Headshots, Executive Portraits, Family Portraits, Baby Portraits, Children Photography, Senior Picture