From the summary at https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014713555/: “Photograph shows Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone (1882-1985), a singer and performer of Creek and Cherokee ancestry in recording studio with accompanist Charles Wakefield Cadman (1881-1946). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2017).” George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress. Post-processed to recover detail.
Until a moment ago, nothing in this photograph was not wood or mud. But as soon as a man within a wooden box picked up an apparatus shaped like an iron flower, he and it carried each other out of the box and into the pictorial record. The record has changed itself accordingly. For example, it now takes into account a space between boxes where there is newly to be seen a man’s clumsily hemmed suit and a name, Edison, in gold amid the mud.
But the man isn’t going to remain in the light of that temporary setting. His music is waiting for him, and the only place for sound here is off the record, back in the dark of the box. After the man has vacated the photograph he has caused to be made, it will seem once again to signify nothing but wood and mud. But the form that once penetrated the record of that which was to be photographed will have changed it forever. From now on, whatever new light falls on the picture will be seen within the spectral limits of a prior illumination that once made visible the panoply of the man: his wrinkled cloth, leather to be sited on mud, and iron horn.
Leaving the interior of the box and carrying the apparatus into the light to be photographed was the dispositive event. By forcing us to see, it obviated our surmise. Now that we know we have seen a flower with a golden name, we know we can hear its music. The man who carried it toward the mud and the light caused it to change forever from the not yet seen to the soon to be heard.
But the effort has left a blankness in his face. Something previously there has been erased. He will never again stare at the Pacific.
Source: I haven’t found a provenance for this image. A chain of Tumblr and Pinterest reblogs eventually terminated without bibliographical data at a site called vinylespassion.tumblr.com.
I have photoshopped the image for contrast and clarity. Kim Bridges contributed extra post-processing in Nik.
The new National Jukebox project at the Library of Congress
is a trove of acoustic recordings from 1901 to 1925 with a great streaming-audio engine. Among much else in the collection, the spoken-word discs show us how strong the regional differences were in American speech before radio started homogenizing them. Here’s Warren G. Harding in 1922, for instance, with an Ohio accent thicker than anything I’ve heard in Ohio in my own excessively long life.
And now that I’ve heard this song from 1906, I’m going to have an easier time reconstructing the voices of the tough guys in Stephen Crane’s Maggie, A Girl of the Streets — right down to the tone of disdain in the cry of “Aw, gee.”