Using Old Photos to Start Conversations about Race in America
The Mirror of Race is a project and website by curated by Suffolk philosophy professor Gregory Fried. Through the study of old photographs (1839 - 1876), Fried and the project's staff hope "to discern and address how these images from the past dislocate our own present presumptions about the representation of race." The website accomplishes this by presenting the photographs first without context and asking the viewer to reflect on what they think they see. Then, with the click of a button, they are given the factual context of the images, allowing them to compare their impressions with what is actually known about each image.
As the website says, "Daguerreotypes are, in strict point of fact, mirrors. Each one is a unique image produced on a reflective, silver-coated copper plate. In such photographs, we see ourselves in two senses: we see our ancestors and so our past, but we also see our own reflections on the same surface." Through these photographs, the viewer is given the opportunity to reflect on history, their present society, and themselves.
Below is a video of volunteers discussing their experience with The Mirror of Race project: