Monday, November 06, 2006

Late 19th century photographs in Portland (
In the 1870s and '80s, ships carried groups of tourists to see the world's ancient wonders in Greece, Jerusalem, India, Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) and especially Egypt -- all of which were known at the time as the Orient. Many photographers sold their pictures outside the ancient wonders as tourist souvenirs. They weren't called photos but views, which is how the View-Master toy got its name and conjures up the notion of a special hidden sight, a seemingly three-dimensional image leaping out of the frame. And the subject matter was just as compelling, offering average Americans glimpses of other cultures that they could take home and keep -- art for the masses. . . . The Portland Art Museum's permanent collection includes about 150 photos from this era by some of the most celebrated photographers of their day, including J. Pascal Sebah. Sebah first made his name in Constantinople with views of ancient ruins, portraits and local people in traditional dress. In 1873 he opened his first studio branch in Egypt, and that's when his career accelerated."

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