William Bullard

I got off work early yesterday, so I went to this Photo Exhibition at NALA despite my painful shoes. I got there late and I left quickly but I got enough spark to write this entry.

The Exhibition was titled Rediscovering the American Community of Color: The photographs of William Bullard. They’re doing a bunch of stuff this week at The American Center with respect to Black History Month.

William Bullard lived in the 1900s and according to the small leaflet they forgot to give me, he took about 5400 photographs and left behind large collection of glass negatives which have had a better chance of surviving time than film or print would have. And among the 5400 of his photographs about 20 are up for the Public viewing until February 26th  at the American Center inside the National Archives and Libraries Agency aka ወመዘክር.

In every reference I tried to find on this William Bullard, they referred to him as an itinerant and I didn’t know what that meant so I looked it up. It means traveler or wanderer. So, this man traveled in the 1900s taking photographs of African Americans and keeping a log of the subjects.

The woman who was giving an explanation at the library yesterday referred to the photographs as “a story of people of color claiming their rightful place in society”. The photographs show black men and women posing with their families or one that stuck out to me of a man just sitting by a tree. These were photos taken after the emancipation and black communities were just starting to settle as free folk or after having migrated to the slavery-free North.

It made me think of what awe worthy luxuries things like sitting by a tree or owning a garden were at the time. Having a family was an act of declaring your place in society? The fact that this exhibition took place for over-thinkers like me to stop and appreciate the value of freedom and having choices made pause a for a bit.

It isn’t new information but it was definitely something to think about.

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p.s. My thought process might have been following a certain theme as it lead me to this photo exhibition. I just finished watching The Handmaid’s tale and immediately there after went on a hunt to find the book by Margaret Atwood. If you haven’t seen the series SPOILERS (I think) but the idea of how the ability to make choices makes one feel powerful was portrayed heavily in this story. The women who were, for lack of a better word, enslaved to be used for breeding would try to take their own lives and they would be denied of even that choice of dying rather than living in that fucked up community. But that last part where June is being led out of the house because she made a choice that could have severe consequences, with her head held high even though she had no idea what kind of hell or salvation she was going to, yet knowing that whatever hell she was about to face, she had chosen despite everything, made me sit in silence contemplating the idea of freedom for a long time.