Helen Balfour Morrison Photographs at the Newberry Library | Newberry

Helen Balfour Morrison Photographs at the Newberry Library

Friday, October 21, 2016

2 to 5pm

Center for American History and Culture Programs
American Art and Visual Culture Seminar

In early 2017, the Newberry Library in Chicago will mount an exhibition featuring a newly-acquired group of photographs: “Photographing the Soul:African-American Kentucky Through the Lens of Helen Balfour Morrison, 1935-1946.”As part of the preparations for the exhibition, we will hold a workshop focused on the photographs for graduate students, scholars, and artists on Friday, October 21, 2016, 2-5 pm at the Newberry.

Chicago area photographer Helen Balfour Morrison is largely unknown today, but she created impressive body of photographs documenting African American life in Depression-era Kentucky as well as artists and writers in Chicago. These photographs have recently been donated to the Newberry Library, where they will be readily accessible to scholars, artists, and the general public.Born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1901, Morrison took a job in a photography studio at age 16 to help support herself.She initiated her own artistic career in the 1930s.For her Kentucky project, Morrison traveled to the Inner Bluegrass region near Lexington, where she photographed the residents of two small African-American communities, Zion Hill and Sugar Hill.Her images reveal the dignity, independence, and strength of the close-knit descendants of the freedmen who settled the Kentucky hamlets in the decades following the Civil War. Morrison’s photographs chart the daily lives of these individuals, picturing their work, domestic rituals, and social life. They preserve this proud legacy for future generations and invite further investigation and understanding of the experiences of African-Americans in these communities and others during the first half of the twentieth century.

Cost and Registration Information 

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically. For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org. Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.