DEVELOPING THE MANGUM PROJECT

Very few of the original black-and-white prints made by Hugh Mangum still exist today. Hundreds of his glass plate negatives, however, did survive and in 1986 were donated to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University for restoration and preservation. In the early 2000s, the library began the process of recording the information on the glass plates by digital capture and then making these positive images available to the public. Though the negatives were originally exposed by Mangum as black-and-white images, the library used color technology to record all the information in the often badly damaged negatives.


Historical photographs from the late 19th and early 20th century have traditionally been reproduced in their original black-and-white. When Sartor and Harris began collaborating on the book that became Where We Find Ourselves, they were drawn to the poetic possibilities of reproducing Mangum’s work in color. In particular, they chose to emphasize the disquieting fragility and paradoxical beauty of the damage to Mangum’s portraits by reproducing the images in color and later, for exhibition, by significantly enlarging their scale. In so doing, they hoped to communicate to others the ways in which these portraits, made over a century ago, resonate with how it feels to live in the world today.

AWARDS & DISTINCTIONS

A 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Longlisted, 2020 Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards

"Interesting on so many levels, this is Americana at its most compelling, real buried treasure brought to life."

--Library Journal, starred review

"How fortunate we are to have these absorbing portraits. First they seduce our eyes and our hearts, then they open our minds."

--Peter Galassi, former chief curator of photography, Museum of Modern Art, New York

"These faces, at times smiling, at times stern, sometimes hatted, sometimes bare, are as ghostly as they are concrete. Often formal, even with chickens, they make the twenty-first century seem dull with all its bright colors. Where We Find Ourselves is a gift. Hugh Mangum saw things we need to keep looking for."

--Randall Kenan, author of The Fire This Time

"Looking through Hugh Mangum's lens, we are transported to another time. History comes to life in these diverse portraits of southern lives."

--Barbara Krauthamer, coauthor of Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery

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