08 March 2005
From Manhattan's Dahesh Museum, a sampling of images from First Seen: Photographs of the World's Peoples, 1840-1880, which they describe as "250 photographic portraits from the dawn of the modern era. Taken by celebrated professionals and gifted amateurs on tour and at home, these compelling images offer our earliest glimpses of men and women on every continent except Antarctica... made in the first four decades following the invention of photography in 1839..." Vince Aletti writes in the Voice: "Many of the photographers seemed to approach their subjects with awed respect. At best, the results are elegant examples of period portraiture, typically full of odd collisions of artifice and naturalism... The nearly 250 images gathered here come from an important private collection [so they] are uncommonly good (with fine examples by Felice Beato, Roger Fenton, Hill and Adamson, Charles Nègre, and other key figures) and instructively wide-ranging. It's useful to see George Sand, in her natty suit and tie, in the same space with a helmeted samurai, a group of Turkish street peddlers, and a pair of recumbent opium smokers. Exoticism is in the eye of the beholder."