James Presley Ball: African-American daguerreotypist

We’ve all heard about iconic Black photographers like Gordon Parks and James VanDerZee, but today I found out about the “founder of African-American photography,” James P. Ball. I’ve never seen his name in any of the photography history books I’ve read in my 15+ years of study…

Here’s an excerpt about this pioneer who also used his profession for social change, from BlackPast.org:

“The daguerreotypist James Presley (J.P.) Ball was born in 1825 in Virginia, probably a freeman. As a young man he learned daguerreotyping and opened his first studio in Cincinnati at age twenty. The city was a center for anti-slavery activity as well as the photographic arts, and Ball became a leader in both. He wrote and published a pamphlet depicting the horrors of slavery to accompany a large panorama in his gallery, and served as the official photographer for a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. By the 1850s, his business had achieved tremendous success. Frederick Douglass, Jenny Lind, and the orator Henry H. Garnet, among other notables, sought out his services, and he became quite affluent.”

Read more about J.P. Ball.

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