James Wallace Black
|James Wallace Black|
February 10, 1825|
Francestown, New Hampshire
|Died||January 5, 1896
|Resting place||Mount Auburn Cemetery
He was born on February 10, 1825 in Francestown, New Hampshire.
After trying his luck as a painter in Boston, he turned to photography, beginning as a daguerreotype plate polisher. He soon partnered with John Adams Whipple, a prolific Boston photographer and inventor. Black's photograph of abolitionist John Brown in 1859, the year of his insurrection at Harpers Ferry, is now in the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
In March 1860, Black took a photograph of poet Walt Whitman when Whitman was in Boston to oversee the typesetting of his 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. Black's studio at 173 Washington Street was less than a block from the publishing firm of Thayer and Eldridge, who apparently commissioned the photograph to promote the 1860 edition.
On October 13, 1860, two years after the French photographer Nadar conducted his earliest experiments in balloon flight, Black made the first successful aerial photographs in the United States in collaboration with the balloon navigator Samuel Archer King on King's hot-air balloon, the Queen of the Air. He photographed Boston from a hot-air balloon at 1,200 feet (8 plates of glass negative; 10 1/16 x 7 15/16 in). One good print resulted, which the photographer entitled "Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It." This was the first clear aerial image of a city anywhere.
Almost immediately, aerial photography would be put to use by the Union Army in the American Civil War.
Black later became the authority on the use of the magic lantern, a candlelight-powered projector that was a predecessor of today's slide projectors. By the late 1870s Black's business largely consisted of lantern slide production, including his famous images of the Great Boston Fire of 1872, published a photographic album titled Ruins of the Great Fire in Boston, November 1872.
Collections of his work
- Boston Athenaeum
- Boston Public Library
- George Eastman House
- Historic New England
- Massachusetts Historical Society
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
- Encyclopedia of nineteenth-century photography, Volume 1. CRC Press, 2008; p.164+
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to James Wallace Black.|
- In Memoriam: JW Black. Wilsons Photographic Magazine, March 1896
- Encyclopedia of nineteenth-century photography, Volume 1. CRC Press, 2008.
- James Wallace Black at Find a Grave
- Boston Public Library on Flickr. James Wallace Black Photographs
- Cambridge Historical Society on Flickr
Sarah Fuller, c1860s
John Brown, 1859
Portrait of noted American poet Walt Whitman, by photographer James Wallace Black, March 1860
Glory of the Seas in shipyard of Donald McKay, 1869
After the Boston Fire, Washington Street. 1872