City of Savannah Launches New Portrait Exhibit

The Municipal Records and Archives Division of the City of Savannah will be displaying “Capturing the Soul: Portrait Photography from the W.W. Law Collection” at the Beach Institute African American Cultural Center through January 2019.

The display features thirty portraits from the W. W. Law Photograph Collection which highlight the evolving nature of photography, portraiture as an art form, as well as material culture through time. The images date from the 1870s through the 1990s, and document the lives of individuals both prominent and anonymous. 

The city received the W.W. Law Collection from the W.W. Law Foundation as a donation in 2014, and is in the midst of a multi-year archival project to process and open the collection to the public for research use and have been opening it in phases as reach certain milestones are reached.
Over the years, the department has exhibited portions of the collection at the Beach Institute, Carnegie Library and  Savannah’s City Hall and look forward to continuing those efforts around town as processing is completed. The goal is to introduce new audiences to the work of W.W. Law and his multi-faceted collection, which spans a diverse career in the Civil Rights Movement, historic preservation, museums, history, music and more.
The display uses the photograph collection “as a springboard to look at portrait photography over time,” says Luciana Spracher, Director of the Municipal Records and Archives Division. “Law’s collection is so diverse and spans such a large time period that it was a wonderful opportunity for us to select a nice sampling of images that capture the evolution of photography from the 1870s through the 1990s through the lens of portraiture. This also allows us to focus on the individual, the named and unnamed.
“With Law, we have a tendency to focus on his Civil Rights Movement and all the movers and shakers he interacted with. This exhibit allowed us to shift away from him and zero in on the faces of others and, through their portraits, shine the spotlight on them, even if we don’t know their names or what they did. Perhaps by doing this, someone will come forward and provide this information and help us fill in those gaps. The exhibit features 30 portraits selected because they spoke to us in some way — men, women, children and families — but really there are so many wonderful images in the W.W. Law Photograph Collection, we hope this exhibit will encourage visitors to explore the larger collection, the majority of which is digitized and available online at”
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