Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits 1905-1920

Overview

Throughout his tenure as a registry clerk with the Immigration Division of Ellis Island, Augustus F. Sherman systematically photographed more than 200 families, groups, and individuals while they were being held by customs for special investigations. This volume collects and provides an essential revaluation of Sherman's striking portraits, which predate August Sander's cataloging efforts by several years. A historical document of unprecedented worth, Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits includes almost ...
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Overview

Throughout his tenure as a registry clerk with the Immigration Division of Ellis Island, Augustus F. Sherman systematically photographed more than 200 families, groups, and individuals while they were being held by customs for special investigations. This volume collects and provides an essential revaluation of Sherman's striking portraits, which predate August Sander's cataloging efforts by several years. A historical document of unprecedented worth, Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits includes almost one-hundred portraits taken from 1905 through 1920. The subjects are frequently dressed in elaborate national costumes or folk dress, emphasizing the variety and richness of the cultural heritage that came together to form the United States. Romanian shepherds, German stowaways, Russian vegetarians, Greek priests, and Ghanaian women in elaborately patterned dresses, are treated with equal gravitas. The resulting body of work presents a unique and powerful picture of the stream of immigrants who came through Ellis Island. In its time, the material contributed to the larger project of ethnographic categorization and typology typical of the early twentieth century, much as Edward S. Curtis's portraits romanticized the "last Indians" or John Thomson's "Street Life in London" identified and codified social class in the late 1800s. Though originally taken for his own personal study, Sherman's work appeared in the public eye as illustrations for publications with titles such as "Alien or American," and hung on the walls of the custom offices as cautionary or exemplary models of the new American species.

In this book, Peter Mesenh ller, Research Associate with theRautenstrauch-Joest-Museum of Anthropology in Cologne, Germany, provides new critical context and analysis of this rich collection, but also addresses the individual images as powerful, engaging photographs created by a master portraitist.

The publication is accompanied by a traveling exhibition that will open at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in the summer of 2005.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931788601
  • Publisher: Aperture Foundation
  • Publication date: 3/15/2005
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2005

    Welcome to America - at the beginning of the last century

    Augustus F. Sherman was simply doing his job when from 1904 to 1920 he photographed the individual arrivals of multiple nationalities at Ellis Island. It was his duty to document those new immigrants who were detained for further investigation before they were allowed to step onto the Great Hope that was America. But what resulted from this duty is a portfolio of portraits of world peoples that is as tender and as touching as any ever captured by professional famous photographers!According to essayist Peter Mesenholler, Sherman was interested in anthropological documentation of the different physical characteristics of these Eastern, Western and Southern European proud folk. He captured the inherent pride of origin of these people who often donned their finest native folk costumes as they entered New York harbor. Sherman was sensitive to the psyches of his 'sitters', knowing that in addition to the overwhelming urge to enter America, the Land of Dreams, each of these people brought with them the memories both sad and happy of their native lands, 'heroes' if you will who were brave enough to leave their roots and aspire to higher dreams and goals. These one hundred portraits are some of the more wrenchingly beautiful from this important time of mass immigration into America, images of the folk who would comprise the melting pot that we so cherish as our national treasure. All of this art is gained by the honest eye of a non-professional photographer who took the interest and care to pass along that rarefied moment of our country's history. And there is much to be learned from slowly perusing the faces and honest captions of these important photographs. The quality of the reproductions in sepia-toned presentation is superb as is the accompanying wise essay by Peter Mesenholler. There are few books of photography that can be more widely acclaimed than this. Very highly recommended. Grady Harp

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